Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep has been suspended four years because of two separate anti-doping violations, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced this week.
“The last year has been the hardest match of my life, and unfortunately my fight continues,” Halep said on Tuesday. “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 Romania-born player has been provisionally suspended since October 2022 after testing positive for Roxadustat, a medicine what is typically used to treat anemia and is considered a banned blood-booster by the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme.
Halep’s second charge was related to irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport based on collection and analysis of 51 blood samples.
“The volume of evidence for the tribunal to consider in both the roxadustat and ABP proceedings was substantial,” said ITIA CEO Karen Moorhouse in a statement, “The ITIA has followed the proper processes as we would with any other individual — in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code — fulfilling our purpose and responsibility to uphold the principle of fair competition, on behalf of the sport.”
However, the 31-year-old has maintained her innocence. Halep said she adjusted her nutritional supplements ahead of the 2022 hardcourt season upon recommendation of her team and physiotherapist.
“None of the listed ingredients included any prohibited substances however we now know — and the tribunal agreed — one of them was contaminated with roxadustat,” Halep said. “I was tested almost weekly after my initial positive test through early 2023, all of which came back negative.”
Halep was ranked world No. 1 in singles twice between 2017 and 2019. She won the 2018 French Open by defeating American Sloane Stephens in the final. Halep won her second major title after taking down Serena Williams at the 2019 Wimbledon final.
The suspension is set to run from Oct. 7, 2022, until October 6, 2026, but the case is still subject to appeal.