Former world No. 1 Simona Halep was handed a four-year ban from the International Tennis Integrity Agency on Tuesday after the organization determined she violated professional tennis’ anti-doping rules.
Halep tested positive for the banned drug Roxadustat at the 2022 U.S. Open last year, according to ESPN. She’s been serving a provisional suspension since October 2022.
Halep, a two-time major champion, vowed to fight the ban in a statement shared on social media.
“The last year has been the hardest match of my life, and unfortunately my fight continues,” she said.
She argued that the Roxadustat came from contaminated nutritional supplements.
“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 Aug. 29, 2022,” she said.
Who supports Halep?
Halep’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was among those who spoke out in support of Halep after the International Tennis Integrity Agency handed down its decision.
“I do not believe that the ITIA looked for the truth in Simona’s case, and I do not believe that they treated her in a way that is acceptable,” Mouratoglou said in a statement.
Darren Cahill, a tennis analyst for ESPN and Halep’s former coach, also encouraged the player to “stay strong.”
“My support in Simona is unwavering,” Cahill said on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
Did Serena Williams comment on Simon Halep’s ban?
Serena Williams was also on social media soon after Halep’s ban was handed down, and her activity led some tennis fans to wonder if she agreed with the International Tennis Integrity Agency.
Williams posted, “8 is a better number,” seemingly referencing the eighth Wimbledon trophy that she missed out on in 2019 due to Halep.
“Williams lost to Halep in the 2019 Wimbledon final, when she was a) bidding for a 24th major singles title and b) seeking an eighth crown at the All England Club,” Tennis.com reported.
Williams also replied to a post from her husband, Alexis Ohanian, that went up after the ban was announced. In it, Ohanian is wearing a “D.A.R.E.” anti-drug T-shirt.
“Some fashion is timeless,” Ohanian wrote.
“Seriously not out of style,” Williams responded.
What is Roxadustat?
The drug identified in Halep’s August 2022 sample, Roxadustat, is on the prohibited substances list because it interferes with typical muscle function, according to The Washington Post.
“It can increase the production of hemoglobin, which in turn can allow athletes to deliver higher amounts of oxygen to their muscles,” the article said.
Before her positive test and provisional ban, Halep was one of the most dominant players in women’s tennis.
Her accomplishments “include reaching the final of the 2018 Australian Open, winning 24 singles titles on the WTA tour and earning more than $40 million in prize money. She finished the 2017 and 2018 seasons as the WTA’s top-ranked player and held the No. 2 spot in 2020,” The Washington Post reported.
If the ban is upheld, Halep will not be eligible to return to play until Oct. 6, 2026.