Peter Ebdon has used a BBC interview to a promote a conspiracy theory around the coronavirus pandemic.
The former world snooker champion believes that the government’s social distancing guidelines are harmful.
More than 34,000 people have died from the virus in the UK with thousands more affected.
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The UK has been in lockdown since March with the public encouraged to limit trips outside and to maintain their distance from each other when they do so.
Ebdon, who famously beat Stephen Hendry to take the world title at the Crucible back in 2002, believes the public are being “brainwashed”.
“There’s an awful lot of brainwashing going on at the moment,” Ebdon said on BBC Radio Five Live. “We’re facing the greatest psychological operation in history.
“Is social distancing harmful? Yes, it probably is. People need touch, need to shake hands. They need to build up their immunity.”
Social media users were quick to criticise Ebdon’s comments.
One tweeted: “Peter Ebdon interview on @bbc5live now. Bat s**t crazy.
“He’s going full conspiracy theory – claiming social distancing should end, media brainwashing, ‘energy’ healing.
“He’s a public figure: his opinions bear weight. Dangerous & disgraceful to allow him airtime.”
Another added: “Peter Ebdon is an outstanding snooker player (although perhaps not always the most gripping to watch).
“His *opinions* knocking the credibility of a scientific, peer-reviewed approach to giving credible advice – and the empirical evidence on which it’s based – are laughable!”
Ebdon is not the first sportsman to come out publicly with conspiracy theories relating to the pandemic.
Former Arsenal and England defender Sol Campbell earlier this month claimed that the virus was man-made while boxer Amir Khan suggested it was linked to 5g phone networks.