Former French Open champion Simona Halep pledged Wednesday to clear her name after being suspended from competitive tennis for four years for doping violations.
Halep, provisionally suspended since October 2022, was found guilty of twice violating the rules of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program (TADP). She will not be able to compete professionally until October 6, 2026.
The Romanian’s first offense came during the 2022 US Open when the banned substance roxadustat was found during in-competition urine testing.
The second charge related to irregularities in Halep’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) – a monitoring of substances in a person’s body over a period of time that indirectly reveals the effects of doping,
“I continue to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations and return to court,” Halep said in a statement.
Halep, who had blamed contaminated nutritional supplements, said she would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
She said she will also pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question.
“I take the rules that govern our sport very seriously and I am proud of the fact that I have never knowingly or intentionally used a banned substance,” Halep said.
The 31-year-old added: “I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban. »
Tennis authorities launched the crackdown on the Romanian when Roxadustat showed up in a test on August 29 following her shock first-round defeat to Ukrainian Daria Snigur.
Roxadustat, according to the European Union Medicines Agency, stimulates the body to produce more erythropoietin, a natural hormone – EPO – that has long been the favorite performance-enhancing drug of cyclists and long-distance runners because it improves their endurance.
“The court accepted Halep’s argument that they had taken a contaminated supplement, but determined that the volume ingested by the player could not have resulted in the concentration of roxadustat found in the positive sample,” the court said. International Tennis Integrity Agency (Itia).
After analyzing Halep’s PBA, a panel of experts indicated that probable doping was the explanation for the irregularities in Halep’s profile.
Upholding ABP’s accusation, the Itia court declared that it had no reason to doubt the unanimous and firm opinion expressed by each of the three independent experts of the passport management unit of the athlete.
Itia boss Karen Moorhouse said: “Following a complex and rigorous hearing process, we welcome the decision of the independent tribunal.
“The volume of evidence that the court had to consider in the Roxadustat and ABP proceedings was substantial.
“Itia has followed the appropriate 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, in the name of sport. The committee acknowledged that proper procedure was followed in the written decision. “
Halep became the first woman from her country to reach the top of her sport when she topped the WTA rankings in October 2017. She remained in the position for four months before Caroline Wozniacki unseated her after winning the Open d ‘Australia.
Halep regained the top spot in February 2018 and underlined her authority at the 2018 French Open. Although Naomi Osaka replaced her after her victory at the 2019 Australian Open, Halep won Wimbledon in 2019.
“We understand the significant public interest in these cases,” Moorhouse added. “And we remain committed to being as transparent as possible and the full decision will be published in due course.”
Halep is the highest-profile tennis player to be banned since five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova tested positive for a newly banned substance at the 2016 Australian Open for the newly banned substance meldonium , and was banned from the game for 15 months.
In a statement, the WTA said: “It is of the utmost importance that players are aware of and follow the TADP rules.
“The WTA will support the decisions made throughout the process and will continue to monitor this closely.”