Simona Halep’s former coach says ‘there is NO chance’ former world No 1 ‘knowingly took banned substance’

Simona Halep in action

Simona Halep’s former coach Darren Cahill has come to the defence of the two-time Grand Slam winner following her positive drugs test.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) dropped a bombshell on Friday when it announced that Halep had been provisionally suspended after testing positive for a banned substance.

A urine sample taken from the former world No 1 at the US Open in showed traces of Roxadustat, a drug that stimulates the production of red blood cells and is used in the treatment of patients with kidney problems, the ITIA revealed.

Halep described it as the “biggest shock of my life” in a statement, adding “Today begins the hardest match of my life: a fight for the truth”.

Cahill took to Instagram to state to insist that the Romanian’s “integrity is faultless”.

“Firstly, and most importantly, there is NO chance Simona knowingly or purposely took any substance on the banned list. None. Zero,” he wrote.

“She is an athlete that stressed about anything prescribed to her by a medical professional (which was rarely), or about any supplement that she used or considered. Simona wore out the words ‘please double check this, triple check this to make sure it’s legal, safe and permitted. If you are not sure, I’m not taking it’.

“We both believe in the ITIA testing program and would often discuss the number of times she was tested, both at tournaments and randomly. She did it without complaint, with the reassurance of knowing other athletes were being tested just as frequently. Competing against clean athletes was important to her. It’s important to everyone and while the system is not perfect, it works.

“Simona’s integrity is faultless, she respects her peers, she loves the game and she always has her feet firmly planted on the ground as a humble, approachable champion.”

Cahill had two spells as Halep’s coach as he first worked with her from 2016 to 2018, winning the 2018 French Open, and again from 2019 to 2021.

Halep has been ruled out of the remainder of the 2022 season after undergoing surgery on her nose to help with her breathing problems.

Australian Cahill added: “I have sat proudly in awe of the person that she has matured into, watching the compassion she has shown others. I’m not talking about the stuff that the tennis world gets to see, I’m speaking about the kindness and care that very few are fortunate to experience. The kind of actions that are done for love and not for publicity.

“Honesty has always been her greatest strength and her biggest weakness. We would often laugh about the fact that she can’t act and can’t tell a little white lie. Ask her a question in a press conference and she will blurt out an honest answer.

“She wears her mood on her shoulder for the world to see, for good and for bad. That is Simo. What you see is what you get. She built an amazing career and legacy by doing things the hard way. The right way.

“Due process will now follow to reveal answers to many questions. As Simona said, the hardest match of her life starts now.

“I believe in her. I always have and can honestly say never more than right now on this particular issue.

“I stand with Simo.”