- Former world number one Simona Halep has been suspended from professional tennis for four years for doping violations
- The ITIA’s tribunal which handled the case heard from Simona and her expert scientific witnesses before making the decision
Former world number one Simona Halep has been suspended from professional tennis for four years for doping violations. According to the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), Halep intentionally breached two of anti-doping rules.
The 31-year-old Romanian tested positive for the prohibited substance roxadustat at the US Open in 2022. Roxadustat is a substance used legitimately for the treatment of anaemia. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency has banned the substance because it is considered a blood-doping agent that increases the production of red blood cells and haemoglobin.
Halep was subsequently found to have irregularities in her athlete biological passport after an analysis of 51 blood samples. The biological passport system monitors a player’s blood indicators for a long period of time to identify any irregularities that could indicate doping.
Simona Halep had been provisionally suspended since October 2022 when reports of her doping came out. The four-year ban will run until October 6, 2026, by which she will be 35.
The ITIA’s tribunal which handled the case heard from Simona and her expert scientific witnesses before making the decision.
The panel accepted Simona’s argument that she had taken a contaminated supplement, but decided that would not have led to the concentration of roxadustat found in her urine sample. The panel also concluded that the unanimous strong opinion reached by three independent experts that “likely doping” was the explanation for the irregularities in her biological passport.
“After a complex and rigorous hearing process, we welcome the independent tribunal’s decision. The volume of evidence for the tribunal to consider in both the roxadustat and ABP proceedings was substantial. Karen Moorhouse, the chief executive officer at the ITIA said, as per The Guardian.
“The ITIA has followed the proper processes as we would with any other individual – in accordance with the world anti-doping code – fulfilling our purpose and responsibility to uphold the principle of fair competition, on behalf of the sport. The panel recognized that appropriate procedure had been followed within the written decision.” She continued.
Things have not been easy on Simona Halep since the start of last year. The Romanian did consider ending her playing career in the early part of 2022 because of a series of injuries. Despite losing interest in the sport, she bounced back and reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year. She also won the WTA 1000 event in Toronto before being banned from tennis.
Following the verdict on Tuesday, Simona Halep released a statement saying she intends to appeal against the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Simona is the highest-profile tennis player to fail a drug test since Maria Sharapova in 2016. She has the support of the Professional Tennis Players Association who are fully committed to supporting her in any future appeals.