Simona Halep has been suspended for four years following breaches of tennis’ anti-doping program. Twice Grand Slam champion Halep has been banned for two separate anti-doping rule violations, the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) confirmed on Tuesday.
“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 ITIA said in a statement.
“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).” It said the ABP charge was also upheld as three independent experts were unanimous that “likely doping” was the explanation for the irregularities in Halep’s profile. The case remains subject to appeal.
Halep said in a statement she intends to appeal against the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. She has strongly denied knowingly taking the banned substance and said she had evidence to show that small amounts of the anaemia drug entered her system from a licensed supplement that was contaminated.
“Today, a tribunal under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program announced a tentative decision in my case. The last year has been the hardest match of my life, and unfortunately my fight continues. “I have devoted my life to the beautiful game of tennis. I take the rules that govern our sport very seriously and take pride in the fact I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance.
“I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban. I am continuing to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations and return to the court. I intend to appeal this decision to The Court of Arbitration for Sport and pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question. I am continuing to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations,” she said
.The 31-year-old former Wimbledon and French Open champion has been provisionally suspended since October 2022 after testing positive for banned blood-booster roxadustat at the US Open last year. Back in October, Halep said the positive drugs test she returned was “the biggest shock of her life,” and vowed to clear her name.
Roxadustat has been linked to doping in the past; with the United States Anti-Doping Agency retesting samples in 2016 after saying it had been tipped off about the anaemia drug’s use by athletes. The banned substance increases the production of red blood cells, helping endurance, and is in the same category of banned substances as EPO.