Romanian tennis sensation Simona Halep, a two-time Grand Slam champion, has received a four-year suspension due to violations of the tennis anti-doping program. The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), as reported by Sky Sports in a statement released on Tuesday, has imposed this ban on Halep for two distinct anti-doping rule infractions.
“The first (charge) related to an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for the prohibited substance roxadustat at the U.S. Open in 2022, carried out through regular urine testing during competition.
“The tribunal accepted Halep’s argument that they had taken a contaminated supplement, but determined the volume the player ingested could not have resulted in the concentration of roxadustat found in the positive sample.
“The second charge related to irregularities in Halep’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).”
The ABP charge has been upheld, with three independent experts unanimously pointing to “likely doping” as the cause for irregularities in Halep’s profile. However, it’s important to note that the case is still open to appeal.
Halep vehemently denies any knowledge of taking the banned substance and asserts that she has evidence indicating that trace amounts of the anaemia drug entered her system through a licensed supplement that was contaminated.
The 31-year-old, a former Wimbledon and French Open champion, has been under provisional suspension since October 2022 after testing positive for the banned blood-booster roxadustat during the US Open the previous year.
Back in October, Halep expressed that the positive drug test result was a profound shock in her life and pledged to clear her name.
Roxadustat has had previous associations with doping, prompting the United States Anti-Doping Agency to retest samples in 2016 after receiving tips about its use by athletes. This prohibited substance enhances red blood cell production, thereby aiding endurance, and falls within the same category of banned substances as EPO.
Halep embarked on her professional tennis career in 2006, with her WTA main draw debut occurring in 2010 at the Andalucia Tennis Experience. She reached her initial Grand Slam final in 2014, where she faced a defeat at the French Open against Sharapova. After enduring losses in finals at Roland Garros in 2017 and the Australian Open in 2018, Halep ultimately secured her first major victory by defeating Sloane Stephens at the 2018 French Open. Subsequently, she triumphed over Serena Williams to claim her maiden Wimbledon title in 2019.