Eight times snooker stars turned into bad boys - from vile rants to cocaine binges

April 21, 2022
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Although snooker has cultivated a reputation for being a gentleman's sport, numerous players have proved even the 'good' games have their share of bad boys.

Stars usually follow a strict code of guidelines around the table, but there are some who have demonstrated the gloves are off after the pre-match niceties. Others reserve their controversy for outside the competition, with personal demons often obscuring their achievements on the baize.

The sport's sanctity is once again in the news after Star Sport revealed messages from world No. 21 Matthew Selt referring to a fan—who, it turns out, is autistic—as a "mong." He's not the only player to have sullied the good name of the sport at one time or another down the years, as the players below know all too well...

1. Jimmy 'The Whirlwind' White

Numerous snooker stars saw their careers blighted by drugs or alcohol (or both), but Jimmy White is perhaps the sport's most infamous example of addiction. The six-time World Championship runner-up is often regarded as the best player never to have won snooker's greatest honour, though he did clinch both the Masters (1984) and the UK Championship (1992).

'The Whirlwind'—who still plays at age 59—accomplished all that despite his addiction to alcohol and cocaine, admitting he's spent "hundreds of thousands" on the Class A drug. White even experimented with crack and once told Louis Theroux that “if cocaine is like the devil’s dandruff, crack is like sucking the devil’s d***… just evil.”

2. Stephen Lee



Stephen Lee is banned from competitive snooker until October 2024
Stephen Lee is banned from competitive snooker until October 2024

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Rated as one of the world's top players in his hayday, Stephen Lee's career appears all but over after he was awarded a 12-year ban from the sport in 2013 (backdated to October 2012). The verdict related to seven charges of match-fixing that took place in 2008 and 2009.

Lee, now 47, will be free to compete again when he turns 50 on October 12, 2024, though he'll do so with a tainted reputation. Since leaving the circuit, he's also been found guilty of fraud after selling a cue he never delivered in 2014, as well as teaching snooker in Hong Kong without a work permit in 2018.

3. Cliff 'The Grinder' Thorburn

One of numerous Canadians who have left their mark on snooker for more than just their play, Cliff Thorburn was once fined £10,000 by World Snooker for his cocaine use in 1989. The first non-UK player to win a world championship (1980) also famously floored long-time rival Alex Higgins at the 1983 Irish Open.

4. Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins



Alex Higgins is perhaps snooker's most famous 'bad boy'
Alex Higgins is perhaps snooker's most famous 'bad boy'

A bittersweet example of the fine lines the separate genius and madness, Higgins was beloved by snooker's masses while being something of an unmanageable character. Widely credited with bringing the sport into the modern era, 'Hurricane' also had a habit of living up to his nickname as a wild force of nature.

Higgins smoked and drank during matches, like many of his peers at the time, but this often contributed to controversy, including two incidents where he punched and headbutted match officials. He even turned on team-mates and threatened to have Northern Ireland comrade Dennis Taylor shot at one World Cup.

Such acts weren't limited to matches. The two-time world champion—who died in 2010 aged 61—was also convicted of assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996, one year before then-girlfriend Holly Haise stabbed him three times at their home.

5. Mark 'The Pistol' Allen

Nobody likes a sore loser, and Mark Allen proved he could be exactly that after losing 10-6 to Cao Yupeng in the first round of the 2012 World Snooker Championship. Allen later suggested that "blatant cheating" might be "a bit of a trait for the Chinese players."

'The Pistol' had referred to other Chinese players at the time whom he felt had gotten away with poor refereeing decisions. Allen later apologised for the remarks, but it wasn't sufficient to avoid a £10,000 fine and three-month ban from the sport.



Mark Allen was fined and temporarily suspended for his comments on Chinese players cheating
Mark Allen was fined and temporarily suspended for his comments on Chinese players

6. Quinten 'The Wizard of Oz' Hann

Where Quinten Hann goes, headlines tend to follow, a trait that's proved accurate of his life outside snooker in the past. The day after he was acquitted of assaulting two women at his home in 2005, he was hit by accusations of match-fixing that eventually resulted in him being banned for eight years.

'The Wizard of Oz', one of snooker's most infamous ladies' men, also once played barefoot and even challenged Andy Hicks to a boxing match at the 2004 World Championship. Hann, 44, has since been temporarily banned from the financial services in his native Australia (going under the name Quinten Hunter) after his Forex business cheated clients out of 'millions of dollars'.

7. Silvino 'The Silver Fish' Francisco

Although match-fixing allegations in 1989 ultimately ended with Silvino Francisco being cleared, he later got on the wrong side of the law after he was imprisoned for three years for smuggling cannabis. 'The Silver Fish'—who won the British Open in 1985—wasn't the only Francisco to wade into criminal waters, either, after nephew Peter was banned for five years for throwing a 1995 clash against White.

8. Ronnie 'The Rocket' O'Sullivan

Never one to hide his thoughts, most of Ronnie O'Sullivan's controversies these days stem from his outspoken views. 'The Rocket' said in 2020 that the young players of today are so bad, he'd "have to lose an arm and a leg" to fall outside the top 50.

But that pales in comparison to his past exploits, such as headbutting assistant tournament director Mike Ganley at the 1996 World Championship. This was during a time in his career when O'Sullivan has since admitted he "pushed his luck" by taking drugs.

The 46-year-old checked into the famed Priory clinic to treat his addictions in 2000, describing the decision as the "best thing" he has done. O'Sullivan is still competing and in the process of seeking his seventh World Championship, though he remains a tempestuous talent around the table.



This post appeared first on Daily Star - Snooker.

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