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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, September 18, 2023


Simona Halep says of her four-year doping ban: "There is no proof. It's just insane." The former world No. 1 will appeal the suspension.

Photo credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty

Simona Halep calls her four-year doping ban major madness.

Former world No. 1 Halep was been hit with a four-year suspension from tennis after being found guilty of two doping violations, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced last week.

More: Halep Hit With Four-Year Suspension

Two-time Grand Slam champion Halep has been provisionally suspended since October 2022, which was credited against the ruling of ineligibility.

Halep's suspension will run from October 7, 2022 until October 6, 2026. 

The 31-year-old Halep was charged with two separate doping violations. The first related to an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for the banned substance Roxadustat at the US Open in 2022, carried out through regular urine testing during competition Roxadustat is 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 hemoglobin and the production of red blood cells. It has been used by middle distance and long-distance runners in the past.

The second charge related to irregularities in Halep’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).

Read the complete 126-page ITIA vs. Simona Halep decision in the case here.

An independent tribunal accepted Halep's explanation of a contaminated supplement, but found "likely doping" as the cause of her failing drug tests.

In her first interview since the four-year doping ban, Halep blasted the ruling saying "there is no proof. It's just insane." Read Halep's interview with Front Office Sports here. 

“When I received the decision, I was in complete shock,” Halep told Front Office Sports. “I could not believe that they suspended me for four years when we found the contamination and my blood was totally normal. They didn’t find anything bad in my blood.

"It’s crazy that they made this decision with everything [her legal team presented]. They judged me on scenarios. There is no proof. It’s just insane.”

Two-time Grand Slam champion Halep testified during a two-day hearing held June 28-29th in London. Halep said she was confident she would be cleared following that hearing and calls her four-year ban "a shock."

“Mentally, it’s been a disaster for me because I wasn’t expecting something like this,” Halep said. “I’ve always been careful with what I put in my body, and I have never taken something without checking. So, it is a shock.”

Halep said she began taking a collagen supplement on the advice of coach Patrick Mouratoglou and his physio, who believed the supplements she was taking previously contained too much sugar.

After both her A and B urine samples showed the presence of Roxadustat, Halep later submitted a hair sample, which also showed traces fo the substance. While the tribunal accepted Halep's explanation that the supplement she took was contaminated with Roxadustat, it ruled that does not explain the amount of the substance in her system.

Page 72 of the tribunal's ruling in Halep's case states: 

"The tribunal has concluded that although the Keto MCT powder was a source of Roxadustat found in her 29 August 2022 sample, the amounts she ingested do not explain the concentration of Roxadustat in her urine. Ms. Halep has not been able to identify the source of the other Roxadustat and the Tribunal considers her bare denial of having knowingly consumed Roxadustat insufficient to discharge her burden of proof."

Howard Jacobs, Halep's attorney, is preparing her appeal which will be heard before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Jacobs knows how high the stakes are: If Halep does not overturn the decision or win a reduction in her four-year suspension, her attorney calls it a "lifetime ban" given she would be 35 years old by the time her suspension ends on October 6, 2026.

Attorney Jacobs has previously won successful appeals and reduced suspensions for a pair of Grand Slam champions. He appealed Maria Sharapova's two-year ban for meldonium, which was reduced to 15 months, and won a reduced suspension from nine months to four months for former US Open champion Marin Cilic on appeal. 


A post shared by Simona Halep (@simonahalep)

Though her attorney is hopeful the Court of Arbitration for Sport will reach a decision on Halep's appeal before the 2024 Australian Open, she concedes it's tough to train with a four-year suspension hanging over her head.

“Tennis is tough to focus on,” Halep said. “I need to stay healthy. It’s emotional [being on the tennis court].

"When you are drained emotionally, you can get hurt physically. I am trying to protect myself, so I will keep going to the gym to stay in shape.”


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