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Snooker: O'Sullivan apologises for 'rape' remark

Ronnie O'Sullivan has apologised for claiming he felt "raped" playing in the lower-profile Players Tour Championship (PTC) series.

Three-time world champion O'Sullivan, down to No 12 in the world rankings, expressed his anger earlier this month about feeling obliged to compete in the events this season.

The 12 PTCs carry either a £10,000 or €10,000 first prize, but early exits can easily see players losing money on expenses. However, they carry significant ranking points, which O'Sullivan cannot do without.

Jason Ferguson, chairman of governing body the WPBSA, spoke to O'Sullivan on Thursday after receiving an official complaint from a woman.

O'Sullivan, 35, said yesterday: "I'm really sorry if I offended anyone. I wanted to explain how I felt but I used the wrong word.

"I didn't realise it would cause any offence. I will be happy to personally apologise to anyone who is offended."

There remains the possibility of disciplinary action for the sport's biggest star over the incident.

But O'Sullivan's apology was unprompted, which may be taken as a mitigating factor in any judgment. And it is also understood the player appeared genuinely sorry for his injudicious use of language, and is writing personally to the woman that complained.

In his rant, world No12 O'Sullivan said: "I feel like I'm being raped when I'm playing in them [the PTCs]. I feel I'm being blackmailed."

Other players, notably seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry and fellow Scot Stephen Maguire, have also complained about the PTCs. Maguire said he felt like a "prostitute" taking part in them.