Time line of the shocking Simona Halep drug ban – and what comes next
Former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep has been handed a four-year ban from tennis after a long-running investigation over a failed drug test, but that only tells a fraction of this complex story.
After months of speculation, denials, delayed court cases and numerous accusations, Halep received the news she was dreading when The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) confirmed a lengthy ban for the Romanian.
This case turned bitter a long time ago and here is the full story on how we have got to this point:
THE INITIAL BAN
The (ITIA) confirmed that two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep failed a doping test at the 2022 US Open.
The world No 9 tested positive for the anti-anaemia drug Roxadustat in New York and was provisionally suspended.
Halep, who won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon the following year, became the highest-profile tennis player to fail a drugs test since Maria Sharapova in 2016.
WHAT CAME NEXT?
The strongest possible denial from Halep.
The 31-year-old Romanian immediately issued a statement on her social media channels following confirmation of her suspension as she said: “Today begins the hardest match of my life: a fight for the truth.
“I have been notified that I have tested positive for a substance called Roxadustat in an extremely low quantity, which came as the biggest shock of my life.
“Throughout my whole career, the idea of cheating never even crossed my mind once, as it is totally against all the values I have been educated with.
“Facing such an unfair situation, I feel completely confused and betrayed. I will fight until the end to prove that I never knowingly took any prohibited substance and I have faith that, sooner or later, the truth will come out.
“It’s not about the titles or money. It’s about honour, and the love story I have developed with the game of tennis over the last 25 years.”
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT THE CASE
Halep’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou was among those who spoke out against the extended process of appeal and verdict in the case.
“I ask the ITIA to stop this harassment that is inconceivable and to stop constantly delaying the hearing that should have been held in February and is now planned at the end of May,” he declared in March.
“I am extremely shocked by the way this case has been conducted. I thought that the ITIA would pursue the goal to establish the truth, but they clearly try to prove her guilty even though she has been able to show multiple evidence of her innocence since December 2022.”
Former world No 1 Ashley Barty also gave her opinion on the Halep ban, as she voiced her concern over the process.
“I really sincerely hope that she has an opportunity to have her say and to explain her side because there are always two sides to every story,” said Barty.
“I think you’d be struggling to find anyone who wouldn’t want to see her back out there doing what she absolutely loves, which is competing on a big stage against the best in the world.”
DELAYS IN THE VERDICT
Halep hit out over the delay in the ITIA investigation in May, as she called for a swift end to the story.
“Emotionally, the whole period has not been easy and I just felt the need to speak out loud to my fans, to my supporters, and actually to the whole public,” she said.
“I’m sure they really want to know what’s going on and why it’s taking so long. I wanted to remain silent until the case was solved but it’s too heavy.
“It’s been seven months since I’ve been originally suspended even though I’ve had all the evidence since December. I’m not asking for special treatment. I just ask to be judged. How much longer is this going to take?”
Halep went on to claim that analysis by experts has pinpointed a contaminated supplement as the cause of the positive test.
“After a lot of work, they found out that there was a contamination, a supplement contamination and that’s why the quantity was so, so low in my body,” said the Romanian.
ITIA confirmed on Tuesday that an independent tribunal suspended Halep for a period of four years following breaches of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP).
Two-time Grand Slam title champion Halep, 31, was charged with two separate breaches of the TADP. The first related to an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for the prohibited substance roxadustat at the US Open in 2022, carried out through regular urine testing during competition. The second charge related to irregularities in Halep’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).
The independent tribunal, established by Sport Resolutions, met on 28 and 29 June 2023 in London, and heard from expert scientific witnesses on behalf of Halep and the ITIA, with the player also giving evidence directly to the panel as part of proceedings.
WHAT IS THE SUBSTANCE IN QUESTION?
Roxadustat is a substance legitimately used for the treatment of anaemia but is on the WADA Prohibited Substance list as it is considered a blood doping agent, which increases haemoglobin and the production of red blood cells.
The statement for Halep’s first charge – which triggered the initial provisional suspension.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Halep quickly announced in a statement that she would appeal the decision, saying: “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.”
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