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Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep has received a four-year ban for anti-doping rule violations, the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) announced on Tuesday.

Halep, who had previously denied any wrongdoing, responded to the announcement by saying she will appeal and that she “has never knowingly or intentionally used any banned substance.”

He added: “I continue to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false accusations and return to court.”

The former world number one, who won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019, was charged with two separate violations of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme.

The first, the ITIA said, was related to Halep’s positive test for the banned substance roxadustat, which is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) 2022 Prohibited List, at the US Open last year.

According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), roxadustat is a class of drug called HIF-stabilizing agents and can increase an athlete’s red blood cell count and improve endurance performance.

The second charge was for irregularities in Halep’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), which is designed to track an athlete’s selected biological variables over time.

“The court accepted Halep’s argument that they had taken a contaminated supplement, but determined that the volume the player ingested could not have resulted in the concentration of roxadustat found in the positive sample,” the ITIA said in a press release.

“ABP’s allegation was also upheld, with the court stating that they had no reason to doubt the unanimous ‘strong opinion’ reached by each of the three independent experts of the Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU) that the ‘probable doping’ was the explanation for the irregularities in Halep’s profile.”

The ITIA said the 31-year-old’s suspension is retroactive and will run from October 7, 2022 to October 6, 2026, and says the case is subject to appeal.

Halep, whose most recent appearance was at last year’s US Open, has been suspended since October 2022.

“Today, a Tennis Anti-Doping Program tribunal announced a provisional decision in my case,” he said in a statement. “The last year has been the hardest game of my life and unfortunately my fight continues.”

Halep added that she had adjusted her nutritional supplements ahead of the hard court season in 2022. She said none of the ingredients listed included banned substances, but accepted that one of them was contaminated with roxadustat.

August 29, 2022;  Flushing, New York, USA;  Simona Halep of Romania hits Daria Snigur of Ukraine on day one of the 2022 US Open tennis tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

“I was tested almost weekly after my initial positive test until early 2023, and all came back negative,” Halep said.

The Romanian added that she was “eternally grateful” for the support of her friends, family and fans and that she “will appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and seek all legal remedies against the supplement company in question. ”

Speaking to CNN Sport on Tuesday, Patrick Mouratoglou, who coached Halep, said he was “extremely shocked” by the decision and anticipates that the four-year ban, if upheld, “will probably mean the end of her career.”

And he added: “I am in shock because I have been with her throughout the entire process. And the decision is completely, for me, impossible to understand… I was in the hearing with her throughout the entire process and I sat there and listened to everything for two days.

“Listening to what I heard and the evidence and everything, I don’t understand how it’s possible to convict her at all.

“Of course, she will go to CAS… I hope those people see it fairly and are released.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) said: “It is of utmost importance that players know the rules of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program and follow them.

“The Independent Court has issued its ruling on Simona’s case and, according to the TADP, the decision can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. “The WTA will support the decisions reached throughout the process and will continue to follow it closely.”

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