Masters champion Stuart Bingham is still dealing with abuse over his 2017 snooker ban for betting on matches, despite never being accused of anything as serious as match-fixing.
Bingham picked up his second Triple Crown title on Sunday night with a superb 10-8 win over Ali Carter at Alexandra Palace, adding the Masters to his 2015 World Championship.
It is something of a redemption story for the Basildon man, who sat out three months of action over the end of the 2017 and start of 2018, missing editions of the UK Championship and Masters as a result.
Ballrun was found guilty of breaking World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) rules on betting on matches involving him and other players, with over £35,000 of bets placed.
He insists he never bet on his own matches, that was another person he shares his betting account with, and that there was never any corruption involved.
The WPBSA agreed that he wasn’t trying to influence any matches, but this does not stop some people labeling the 43-year-old a cheat to this day.
‘No matter how much you explain to them, or talk to them about what did not happen with the betting, they don’t believe you – they will still call me a cheat,’ Bingham told the BBC.
‘It did [hurt], but with this little beauty [Masters title] now, it does not hurt any more. You can say what you want, I am more strong-minded and I will get on with my life.’
Disgracefully, Bingham says the abuse was not limited to just him, with his family also having to deal with it as well.
‘My family and I got a lot of abuse on social media,’ he said. ‘People that did not know the full story and had just read the headline branded me a cheat.
‘I can say on my kids’ life that I have never missed a ball on purpose or thrown a game. My family, friends and those in snooker know I have never done anything like that.
‘The headlines that came out were a bit harsh but my friends and family know the truth and that is all that matters. It showed me a lot about people on tour who I thought were my friends. It opened my eyes to a lot more.’
Bingham missed out on a huge amount of potential earnings and had to pay £20,000 in costs over the ban, so he has learned his lesson.
He fully accepts that he was in the wrong, but feels that punishment has toughened him up mentally and improved his game.
‘I’ve come through that and I feel like it has made me a stronger person and a better player,’ he told Eurosport.
‘It took its toll getting banned for three months from what I loved doing. Like a normal person, I was having a punt now and again.
‘I hold my hands up, I never had a bet on my own games. Obviously they found the account I was using did have bets. But I swear on my baby’s life it had nothing to do with me. But I broke the rules and I’ve taken the punishment.’
Six-time world champion Steve Davis has praised the attitude of Bingham for ‘weathering the storm’ of the scandal, which has helped him become one of the best players at dealing with pressure situations.
‘A certain amount of relief, I would feel, that he’s back winning a major,’ Davis told the BBC.
‘He had a bit of a sticky time a few years back.
‘He’s weathered that storm, we all know how good a player he is, but you’ve still got to prove that every time you go out there.
‘I think this particular tournament he played himself into form. Played great snooker to come back on occasions and withstood a lot of things that were thrown at him.
‘When it mattered he was clear-thinking under pressure and his cue action held up.
‘Great break-builder, never in doubt and I think now, a great pressure player. His second major, marvelous for him, delighted.’