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Snooker players being treated like “lab rats”, says O'Sullivan

As the World Snooker Championships begins today, Ronnie O’Sullivan claims players are being treated like “lab rats”, stating that those who back the decision for fans to spectate have a “death wish”.

Fellow snooker professional, Anthony Hamilton has announced his withdrawal from the event, over fears of his health as he suffers from asthma. O’Sullivan, five-time Crucible champion, has publicly supported Hamilton’s decision, with the event being one of three pilot testing the return of fans.

300 spectators were to be allowed to witness the action, around a third of normal capacity, with bubbles of up to four people from two households allowed to sit together. However, following today's government announcement, spectators will no longer be allowed to attend live sporting events this weekend, with a decision yet to be made on spectator involvement during today's session, as supporters were already in attendance prior to this announcement.

O’Sullivan who starts his campaign on Sunday says, "they're treating this snooker event like lab rats really, so what can you do? You can sit here and complain and say it isn't right, but it is what it is.”

"Maybe they have to start doing tests on crowds at some point. You've got to start somewhere, (so why not) start with snooker players - less insurance to pay out for Anthony Hamilton than there is for Lewis Hamilton.”

"I defy anybody, if they've been keeping their distance from people for four months, to say, 'oh right, now you've got to go into a room full of people' - unless you've got a death wish, and some people have in many ways and they just don't care.”

"But if you're one of those people who happens to care about your health and are taking it seriously, I totally get how he (Hamilton) feels."

The World Snooker Tour have not directly responded to O’Sullivan’s comments, but have emphasised that safety has been the "paramount concern". Adding that it had been a "fantastic triumph" being the first indoor event to be held with an audience present.

O’Sullivan adds, "I have the option not to play, but I've decided to play. I've got my plan in place, I'll pitch up to play and hope everything's fine, and if I don't feel comfortable, we'll have to decide at that point.”

"I am still very careful about who I hang around with and where I go. It's not just me who is affected - my mum is high risk, she had pneumonia last year, so I actually haven't come within 20 feet of my mum.”

"I've known people that have died from Covid-19. It hits home a lot harder when you've experienced someone dying and you've experienced the reality of talking to someone on the front line, telling you the actual reality of what it's like.”

"That's when it hits home. Until you've heard those stories and you've experienced it, it's easy to have the attitude that it's all been blown out of proportion. I am one of those people that have taken it seriously, like Anthony Hamilton."

Recent comments from rival Judd Trump says O’Sullivan should withdraw, adding he’s being selfish trying to claim the headlines prior to the event.

Nicknamed the Rocket, O’Sullivan has not explained why he’s participating in this year’s Crucible following his safety concerns. Yet, can be understood with the amount of uncertainty the virus has caused. Therefore, precautionary measures need to be abided by if sport is to return ‘back to normal’ any time soon.

Author: James Parker