Simona Halep Roland Garros

Simona Halep ‘shocked and disappointed’ by lengthy doping ban

Simona Halep has received a four-year ban by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), and the 2019 Wimbledon champion revealed that she ‘refuses to accept the decision’.

Halep was provisionally suspended in October of last year, after testing positive for the banned substance roxadustat following her first round defeat at the US Open.

Since then, Halep has consistently declared her innocence and has denied ‘knowingly’ ingesting the substance that increases the production of red blood cells.

Following a series of delays to the hearing and outcome, of which Halep has expressed her frustration at over the past year, the ITIA revealed yesterday that the 31-year-old would be banned until 7th October 2026.

Halep has been suspended for two breaches, labelled ‘the presence and use of roxadustat as evidenced in Halep’s urine sample collected on 29 August 2022 at the US Open’ and ‘use of a prohibited substance or method during 2022, based on collection and analysis of 51 blood samples provided by the player as part of the ABP (Athlete Biological Passport) programme’.

The two-time major winner had revealed that they had found evidence that her sample was contaminated, and while the ITIA accept this claim, they have suggested that there was too much for it to just be a contamination.

“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 ITIA said in a statement.

Simona Halep Response

Halep has responded to the ban in a strong and lengthy statement of her own, “Today, a tribunal under the tennis anti-doping programme 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.”

The former No.1 continued to speak about the process that has lead to this decision, describing it as ‘a feeling of living in purgatory’.

“My representatives and I presented the ITIA and the tribunal with compelling evidence in support of my defense, including multiple legitimate questions regarding the conclusions reached around my Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) testing. While I am grateful to finally have an outcome following numerous unfounded delays and a feeling of living in purgatory for over a year, I am both shocked and disappointed by their decision,” explained Halep.

She continued, “I believe in a clean sport and in almost two decades as a professional tennis player, through hundreds of tournaments and two Grand Slam titles, I have taken 200 blood and urine tests to check for prohibited substances – all of which have been clean, until 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 – one of them was contaminated with roxadustat. I was tested almost weekly after my initial positive test through early 2023, all of which came back negative.”

Halep then went onto claim that the charge against the breaches of her Athlete Biological Passport was influenced by experts learning of who she was.

“Despite this evidence, the ITIA brought an ABP charge only after its expert group learned my identity, causing two out of three to suddenly change their opinion in favor of ITIA’s allegations,” claimed the Romanian. “The ITIA relied solely on the opinions of these experts who looked only at my blood parameters – which I’ve maintained for more than 10 years in the same range.

“This group ignored the fact no prohibited substance has ever been found in my blood or urine samples with the sole exception of one August 29 positive test for roxadustat, which was present at an extremely low level and which, when considering my negative test three days prior, could only have been caused by accidental exposure to roxadustat.”

Halep concluded her statement by thanking people for their support, and by revealing her intention to appeal the decision.

“I am eternally grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from my family, friends, and tennis fans around the world. I am continuing to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations and return to the court,” said Halep.

“I intend to appeal this decision to The Court of Arbitration for Sport and pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question.”

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.