Simona Halep ban, doping, reaction, Serena Williams tweet, details, updates

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Former world number one Simona Halep has received a four-year ban from tennis for two doping offences, the International Tennis Integrity Agency said.

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The 31-year-old Romanian has been provisionally suspended since October last year after testing positive for the blood-stimulating substance Roxadustat at the 2022 US Open.

And in May, the two-time Grand Slam singles champion was charged with a second anti-doping violation related to irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).

Both charges have been confirmed by an independent court.

Halep, provisionally suspended since October 2022, will not be able to play professional tennis again until October 6, 2026.

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But shortly after the ITIA statement was released, Halep announced she would appeal the decision, saying: “Today (Tuesday), a tennis anti-doping program tribunal announced a tentative decision in my case. The last year has been the hardest game of my life and unfortunately my struggle continues.

“I have dedicated my life to the beautiful game of tennis. I take the rules that govern our sport very seriously and take pride in the fact that I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance. I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban. “I intend to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”

An independent tribunal, which heard evidence from Halep, winner of the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon singles titles, met in London on June 28 and 29.

On September 11, the court, which also heard evidence from scientific experts and examined some 8,000 pages of evidence, confirmed that it had found that Halep had committed intentional violations of tennis’ anti-doping program.

One of them was the use of Roxadustat discovered in her urine sample at the 2022 US Open, and the other breach was based on the collection and analysis of 51 blood samples provided by Halep as part of the ABP program.

Roxadustat is a substance that can be used legitimately to treat anemia. But it is also on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances as it is considered a blood doping agent, which increases hemoglobin and red blood cell production.

The 31-year-old Romanian was provisionally suspended last October 2022 after testing positive for the banned substance roxadustat and was charged with a second anti-doping violation in May. "regarding irregularities in his athlete's biological passport".  (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)
The 31-year-old Romanian was provisionally suspended last October 2022 after testing positive for the banned substance roxadustat and was charged with a second anti-doping violation in May “related to irregularities in her athlete’s biological passport.” (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)Source: AFP

The biological passport system is designed for long-term monitoring of an athlete’s blood indicators with the aim of identifying irregularities that may indicate doping.

Halep claimed that experts discovered she had accidentally taken a contaminated supplement.

But the ITIA said Tuesday that while the court accepted that Halep had taken a contaminated supplement, they also “determined that the volume the player ingested could not have resulted in the concentration of Roxadustat found in the positive sample.”

ITIA chief executive Karen Moorhouse said: “After a complex and rigorous hearing process, we welcome the independent tribunal’s decision.” She added: “The 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 panel recognized that the appropriate procedure had been followed within the written decision.”

Moorhouse said that given “the significant public interest,” the full decision in Halep’s case “will be published in due course.”

Seemingly reacting to Wednesday’s news, Serena Williams wrote, “8 is a better number.”

To put it in context, Williams fell to Halep in the 2019 Wimbledon final while seeking her eighth title at the All England Club.

Williams also liked a tweet from retired tennis player Nicole Gibbs, who wrote: “What a disappointment when you find out that half of your heroes from your sports days were cheating. It’s so frustrating and makes sports so dumb; It’s not a fair fight and it makes you wonder how many skate around unnoticed (I think probably a lot).”


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