Sports Editor, Sep 12 (EFE).- Tennis player Simona Halep, current world number 26, has been suspended by an independent court for four years following violations of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program, the International Tennis Integrity Agency reported Tuesday.
Simona Halep of Romania hits a return to Daria Snigur of Ukraine during their first round match at the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA National Tennis Center in the Flushing Meadows, New York, US, 29 August 2022 (reissued 21 October 2022). EFE-EPA FILE/JUSTIN LANE
Halep, 31, tested positive at the 2022 US Open for the banned substance roxadustat following a regular urine test during the competition. In addition to various irregularities in the Athlete Biological Passport, noted the ITIA.
After hearing expert witnesses on behalf of the ITIA and of the former world number 1, who testified to having taken a “contaminated supplement,” the independent tribunal confirmed that it had found Halep to have committed intentional anti-doping rule violations, as “the volume ingested could not have resulted in the concentration of roxadustat found in the positive sample.”
The two-time Grand Slam winner was provisionally suspended in October 2022, and with this decision, her suspension will be extended to October 6, 2026.
“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. I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance. I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban,” said Halep on her social media.
A professional since 2006, Halep was surprised by the suspension and said she has always believed in a clean sport and that in nearly two decades as a professional tennis player, she has undergone 200 blood and urine tests for banned substances, all of which have come back clean, until the one practiced on August 29, 2022.
“Ahead of the hard court season in 2022, upon recommendation from my trusted team and physiotherapist, I adjusted my nutritional supplements. None of the listed ingredients included any prohibited substances. However, we now know -and the tribunal agreed- that one of them was contaminated with roxadustat,” she continued.
After the positive result, the tennis player declared to have undergone almost weekly tests until early 2023, “all of them with negative results,” and stressed that such decision came after the panel of experts of the court knew her identity, “which caused two of the three to suddenly change their opinion in favor of the ITIA’s allegations.”
“I continue 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 to pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question,” Halep concluded. EFE