(Paris) Simona Halep, former world number 1 and double Grand Slam champion, was suspended four years for a double violation of anti-doping regulations on Tuesday, but the Romanian immediately announced her intention to appeal and her determination to play again.
“I refuse to accept the four-year suspension,” Halep insisted on social networks, saying his “intention to appeal this decision before the Court of Arbitration for Sport”, shortly after the announcement of his sanction by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), the independent organization responsible for anti-doping in tennis.
“I continue to train and do everything in my power to clear my name and get back on the court,” she says.
The career of Halep, 32 years old at the end of the month, has been on hold for almost a year. Precisely since October 7, 2022, the date of the start of its provisional suspension after a test carried out at the 2022 United States Open, positive for a banned product, roxadustat, a molecule which stimulates the production of red blood cells and classified among EPOs in the regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The champion of Roland-Garros 2018 and Wimbledon 2019 was then caught up in the spring by a second affair, this time “irregularities” in the data of her biological passport, a long-term monitoring tool for high-level athletes.
These two offenses were upheld by the independent tribunal which met at the end of June in London, in the presence of Halep and scientific experts presented by the two parties, explains the ITIA in a press release.
“The court accepted the argument of taking a contaminated dietary supplement put forward by Halep, but determined that the concentration of roxadustat found in the positive sample could not result from the quantity ingested by the player,” specifies the anti-doping body.
Suspended until October 2026
As for Halep’s biological passport, “the court established that it has no reason to doubt the unanimous ‘strong opinion’ of the three independent experts that ‘probable doping’ was the explanation for the irregularities,” based on the analysis of 51 blood samples from the player,” she continues.
As since the start of the affair, almost a year ago, Halep nevertheless continues to proclaim his innocence.
“I have never taken any prohibited product intentionally,” she repeated on Tuesday, “in shock” at the decision and believing that she had provided “irrefutable proof” of her good faith.
Faced with the lengthy procedure that she has denounced on several occasions in recent months, the Romanian evokes “the feeling of living in purgatory for more than a year”.
Halep is the first prominent tennis player caught in the anti-doping net since the resounding suspension of Maria Sharapova in 2016. Having tested positive for meldonium, the Russian star ultimately received a 15-month suspension.
“This last year has been the most difficult match of my life, and unfortunately, my fight continues,” writes the one who remained 64 weeks on the throne of world number 1 between October 2017 and February 2018.
The 24-titled Romanian has not played competitively since her elimination in the first round of the 2022 US Open, a little over a year ago. She then ended her season in mid-September, after a nose operation, to resolve a respiratory problem in particular, before being temporarily suspended.
His sanction now runs until October 2026.