Sport

RETURN TO COMPETITION

Halep wins in battle to reduce doping ban, cleared to play immediately

Halep wins in battle to reduce doping ban, cleared to play immediately
Former world No 1 tennis player Simona Halep had a four-year doping ban cut to nine months by the Court for Arbitration of Sport. (Photo: Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Simona Halep, the former world No 1 has a doping ban reduced from four years to nine months by sport’s highest ruling body.

Former Wimbledon and French Open champion Simona Halep had her four-year doping ban cut to nine months by the top court for global sport on Tuesday, making the former world No 1 eligible to return to competition immediately.

Halep was initially banned for four years for two separate anti-doping rule violations. But the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that her suspension should be reduced to nine months, a period she has already served.

CAS ruled that on “the balance of probabilities” that Halep’s anti-doping rule violations were “not intentional.”

Halep was suspended in October 2022 after she tested positive for Roxadustat — a banned drug that stimulates the production of red blood cells — at the US Open that year.

She was also charged with another doping offence last year due to irregularities in her athlete biological passport (ABP), a method designed to monitor different blood parameters over time to reveal potential doping.

“The CAS Panel has unanimously determined that the four-year period of ineligibility… is to be reduced to a period of ineligibility of nine (9) months starting on 7 October 2022, which expired on 6 July 2023,” a statement from CAS said.

“Having carefully considered all the evidence put before it, the CAS Panel determined that Ms Halep had established, on the balance of probabilities, that the Roxadustat entered her body through the consumption of a contaminated supplement, which she had used in the days shortly before 29 August 2022 and that the Roxadustat, as detected in her sample, came from that contaminated product.”

‘Clean athlete’

Now that the 32-year-old Romanian is eligible to compete, she could be granted a wild card to this year’s French Open or Wimbledon.

“Throughout this long and difficult process, I have maintained my belief that the truth would eventually come out, and that a just decision would be reached, because I am and always have been a clean athlete,” Halep said in a statement.

“My faith in the process was tested by the scandalous accusations that were levelled against me, and by the seemingly unlimited resources that were aligned against me. But in the end, the truth prevailed, even if it took much longer than I wish it had.

“I would like to thank my lawyers who have stood with me and believed in me from the beginning; and more importantly, I want to thank my sponsors, my fans and my competitors who stuck with me throughout this long and trying process.

“I cannot wait to return to the tour.”

Simona Halep doping

Simona Halep says that ‘throughout my whole career, the idea of cheating never even crossed my mind once’. (Photo: Robert Prange / Getty Images)

Halep, who vigorously denied the charges against her, has said that she would most likely be compelled to retire if the initial four-year ban was maintained.

Halep blamed contaminated supplements for her positive test at the US Open and accused the International Tennis Integrity Agency (Itia) of charging her with an ABP violation after the group of experts who assessed her profile learned her identity.

In response to the ruling, Itia Chief Executive Officer, Karen Moorhouse, said: “An essential element of the anti-doping process is a player’s ability to appeal, and the Itia respects both their right to do so, and the outcome.”

An independent tribunal accepted Halep’s argument that she had taken contaminated supplements but said the volume she ingested could not have resulted in the concentration of Roxadustat found in her positive sample.

However, the CAS Panel said that while Halep should have been more careful when using the supplement, she did not bear significant fault for the violation.

Also, the ABP charge was dismissed on the basis that it was appropriate to consider that the sample given in late 2022 was shortly before a surgery and that Halep had said she was not going to compete for the rest of that year.

The Professional Tennis Players Association said the CAS decision “underscores the need for sensible reform to an unjust system that fails to protect (the players’ rights)”. Reuters/DM

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