Ken Doherty has criticised Ronnie O'Sullivan's "derogatory" remarks about snooker's next generation of players.
O'Sullivan was scathing in his assessment of young players after he beat Ding Junhui to set up a World Championship quarter-final clash against fellow veteran Mark Williams.
"If you look at the younger players coming through, they're not that good really," he said.
"Most of them would do well as half-decent amateurs, or not even amateurs they're so bad a lot of them.
"A lot of them you see now, you think, cor, I've probably got to lose an arm and a leg to fall outside the top 50. So that's why we're hovering around - because of how poor it is down that end."
Doherty, who won the World Championship in 1997, believes that criticism was unfair, pointing out O'Sullivan's vaunted status in the game and the respect he gets from his rivals.
"Name another sportsman that would slag off the rest of the tour, saying they are not that good," the Dubliner said when appearing as an analyst on BBC Two's coverage of this year's tournament at the Crucible.
"The standard is as high as ever. It may be a bit tongue in cheek but it is not nice. I think it is derogatory.
"All of those players look up to Ronnie and he has a duty to them as an ambassador to the game.
"He is a hero to all those players on the tour. I don't know whether they will still think he is a character or look up to him."