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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 12:50 GMT
Snooker mourns Werbeniuk
Bill Werbeniuk
Werbeniuk was a cult figure in snooker in the 1980s
Former world snooker champion Cliff Thorburn has led the tributes to fellow Canadian Bill Werbeniuk, who has died of heart failure at the age of 56.

Werbeniuk, who passed away on Monday in Vancouver, spent the last three years of his life in hospital in his home country.

"Every time I come to Britain people always ask me about Bill," said Thorburn. "He was a larger than life character.

"When Bill was at his peak, Canada had three players ranked in the top eight in the world and I always thought we were the only real team competing in the World Cup.

I would always maintain that inderal was performance enabling, not performance enhancing

Bill Werbeniuk

"We weren't just team-mates, we were great friends off the table."

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 14 January, 1947, Werbeniuk became a cult figure in the 1980s because of his ability to drink copious amounts of lager during matches.

"I'd down six to eight pints of lager before I started. Then I'd have one pint a frame," he recalled last year.

"Obviously over the longer matches I'd get through quite a lot of lager but I managed to burn off alcohol very quickly."

The 20-stone giant joined the fledgling professional circuit in 1973 and reached a career highest eighth in the world in 1983.

He reached the world championship quarter-finals four times and made the highest break of the 1985 event, a 143.

I've had 24 pints of extra strong lager and eight double vodkas and I'm still not drunk

Bill Werbeniuk after his defeat to Nigel Bond

In 1983, he was runner-up to Steve Davis in the Lada Classic and was part of the victorious Canadian team in the 1982 World Cup.

Werbeniuk spent several seasons in the top 16 but his career was effectively ended when inderal was banned.

He used the drug to help his heart cope with the large amounts of alcohol he was drinking, which he claimed counteracted a tremor in his arm.

"I would always maintain that inderal was performance enabling, not performance enhancing," said Werbeniuk.

"I got a letter one day saying don't bother to turn up because you're not playing."

Werbeniuk's last professional match was his 10-1 defeat to Nigel Bond in the preliminary rounds of the 1990 world championship.

Afterwards he declared: "I've had 24 pints of extra strong lager and eight double vodkas and I'm still not drunk."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Sport's Clive Everton
"It's easy to forget what a good player Werbeniuk was"
 Former world champion Cliff Thorburn
"He was like a brother to me"
See also:

04 May 01 | World Snooker Championship
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