Simona Halep was suspended for four years Tuesday after an independent tribunal concluded that the Romanian tennis star violated multiple anti-doping rules, according to the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA).
Halep, 31, had already been provisionally suspended since October after the ITIA discovered the banned substance roxadustat in her urine sample at the 2022 US Open. At the time, Halep called the news “the biggest shock of [her] life” and denied she knowingly used a banned substance. She was hit with another doping allegation in May for “irregularities” in her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), which looks at markers in het blood.
This investigation confirmed both charges.
“After a complex and rigorous hearing process, we welcome the independent tribunal’s decision,” ITIA CEO Karen Moorhouse said in a statement. “The volume of evidence for the tribunal to consider in both the roxadustat and ABP proceedings was substantial.”
Halep once again denied “knowingly or intentionally” taking a prohibited substance and refused to accept the outcome of the investigation in a statement released Tuesday morning.
“The last year has been the hardest match of my life, and unfortunately my fight continues,” she said in the statement. “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.
“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.”
She added that she’d previously taken 200 clean blood and urine tests during her career but had adjusted her “nutritional supplements” in 2022. Halep said she believes one of those supplements was contaminated with roxadustat. The tribunal accepted this argument by Halep in its investigation but said in its statement that “the volume the player ingested could not have resulted in the concentration of roxadustat found in the positive sample.”
Halep won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019. She was ranked No. 1 in the world at the end of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Halep lost in the first round of the 2022 US Open to Daria Snigur and lost in the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2022 to the eventual winner, Elena Rybakina.