Simona Halep has issued a statement after the independent tribunal handed her a four-year ban from tennis as the Romanian claims “the ITIA brought an ABP charge only after its expert group learned my identity, causing two out of three to suddenly change their opinion in favor of ITIA’s allegations.” Today, the ITIA announced that the independent tribunal found Halep guilty of committing two anti-doping charges.
Firstly, Halep was provisionally suspended in late 2022 after testing positive for Roxadustat. In May, Halep was hit with a second anti-doping violation over “irregularities in her athlete biological passport.” In a statement provided by the ITIA, it was said that the independent tribunal “had no reason to doubt the unanimous ‘strong opinion’ reached by each of the three independent Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU) experts that ‘likely doping’ was the explanation for the irregularities in Halep’s profile.” Halep plans to take her case to Court of Arbitration for Sport and also take legal action against the supplement company that apparently gave her supplemented goods.
Halep’s full statement on receiving a four-year ban
“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.
In a 126-page report, the tribunal found that I committed both charges brought by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) – an in-competition positive urine test for a prohibited substance and a breach of the Athlete Biological Passport Programme.
My representatives and I presented the ITIA and the tribunal with compelling evidence in support of my defense, including multiple legitimate questions regarding the conclusions reached around my Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) testing.
While I am grateful to finally have an outcome following numerous unfounded delays and a feeling of living in purgatory for over a year, I am both shocked and disappointed by their decision. I believe in a clean sport and in almost two decades as a professional tennis player, through hundreds of tournaments and two Grand Slam titles, I have taken 200 blood and urine tests to check for prohibited substances – all of which have been clean, until August 29, 2022.
Ahead of the hard court season in 2022, upon recommendation from my trusted team and physiotherapist, I adjusted my nutritional supplements. None of the listed ingredients included any prohibited substances however we now know – and the tribunal agreed – one of them was contaminated with roxadustat.
I was tested almost weekly after my initial positive test through early 2023, all of which came back negative. Despite this evidence, the ITIA brought an ABP charge only after its expert group learned my identity, causing two out of three to suddenly change their opinion in favor of ITIA’s allegations.
The ITIA relied solely on the opinions of these experts who looked only at my blood parameters – which I’ve maintained for more than 10 years in the same range. This group ignored the fact no prohibited substance has ever been found in my blood or urine samples with the sole exception of one August 29 positive test for roxadustat, which was present at an extremely low level and which, when considering my negative test three days prior, could only have been caused by accidental exposure to roxadustat.
I am eternally grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from my family, friends, and tennis fans around the world. I am continuing to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations and return to the court.
I intend to appeal this decision to The Court of Arbitration for Sport and pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question,” Halep said in a statement.