Simona Halep ‘confident’ of tennis return after doping ban appeal

Ewan West
Simona Halep after her doping appeal hearing in 2024
Simona Halep speaks to reporters after her doping appeal hearing in Switzerland

Simona Halep has expressed “confidence” that her doping ban will be overturned and she will return to tennis after appearing in court for her appeal hearing.

The two-time major winner was given a four-year ban from the sport for “intentional” doping offences by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) in September. The Romanian denied having “knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance” and opted to appeal the decision.

Halep appeared before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) from Wednesday February 7 to Friday February 9 for her appeal hearing, which took place at the CAS Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In a statement after the final day of the hearing, Halep said: “This hearing provided me with the opportunity to present my position and defend my innocence.”

“My confidence in the prevalence of the truth remains intact. I look forward to reclaiming my place on the tennis courts.”

After the hearing concluded on Friday, CAS said in a statement: “The parties have been informed that the CAS Panel in charge of the matter will now deliberate and prepare the Arbitral Award containing its decision and grounds.”

Halep’s lawyer, Howard Jacobs, explained the CAS had heard the tennis star’s arguments but that it was unclear when the court would deliver its verdict.

Prior to her ban, Halep had been provisionally suspended since October 2022 after she tested positive for the banned substance Roxadustat at the 2022 US Open.

The 32-year-old, who was subsequently charged with irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), has not played since her opening round defeat to Daria Snigur at the 2022 US Open.

The ITIA confirmed in September that both the charges for Halep’s positive test for Roxadustat, and for the irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport, had been upheld, with an independent tribunal suspending her for four years for breaches of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP).

The 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 Romanian also giving evidence directly to the panel as part of proceedings.

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.

In a statement released by Halep announcing she would appeal the ban, she said: “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 ban runs until October 2026, when Halep will be 35. The former world No 1 admitted in December that if the CAS decision goes against her, it will likely be the end of her career.

“I think so, yeah, because four years is going to be a lot, for my age at least,” Halep told Euronews when asked if the ban not being overturned would lead to her retirement.

“And for an athlete who has done this thing every day for 25 years and dedicated their life to tennis and to sport I don’t know how it’s going to be, but it’s catastrophic if it’s going to be four years, and I don’t know how I will handle it.

“Probably, it’s going to be the end of my career, yes. And for something that I didn’t do and that is not my fault, it’s even more catastrophic.”

READ MORE: Simona Halep hung out to dry with ‘bullsh*t’ doping ban, believes expert involved in case