Ronnie O'Sullivan's claims of bullying and intimidation by World Snooker are "unfounded", the body's chairman Barry Hearn has insisted.
The five-time world champion, speaking after a win over Gary Wilson at the World Championship, said a disciplinary letter sent to him by World Snooker had been threatening in its language, the 41-year-old vowing he would not be "bullied".
Responding to the claims, Hearn released a statement that read: "In view of Ronnie O'Sullivan's comments regarding 'bullying and intimidation' by Barry Hearn and World Snooker, I find it necessary to respond as follows:
"All players have contracts with World Snooker Limited by way of a players' contract which was written in conjunction with WPBSA [World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association] and agreed with the players' governing body. This sets out the obligations of the players and applies to all participants on the World Snooker Tour.
"There are no exceptions. Ronnie O'Sullivan has signed this contract and is therefore eligible to play in any World Snooker events as he wishes.
"World Snooker owns the worldwide commercial rights for professional snooker. WPBSA is the governing body and represents the professional players on the World Snooker Tour.
"The WPBSA is exclusively responsible for all disciplinary matters pertaining to snooker, its players and their responsibilities outlined in the players' contract. Neither World Snooker nor myself have any involvement whatsoever in disciplinary matters.
"Neither World Snooker nor myself have received any communication from Ronnie O’Sullivan's lawyers in regard to his responsibilities or concerns in relation to his signed players' contract.
"I personally take any accusation of 'bullying and intimidation' by me or World Snooker very seriously. Unfounded accusations such as these are damaging to World Snooker's global reputation, as well as my own, and we will take whatever action is required to protect this reputation from such inaccurate comments.
"I hope all parties can move on from this position and concentrate on the brilliant entertainment provided by players at the Betfred World Championship."
The letter O'Sullivan received related to January's Masters tournament where he criticised a referee and swore at a photographer.
Hearn recently described O'Sullivan's behaviour in the media, in which he has repeatedly given curt answers to questions, as "embarrassing".