Former world No. 1 Simona Halep has been provisionally suspended from tennis after testing positive for a prohibited substance at this year’s US Open.
According to the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), Halep tested positive for Roxadustat, which is a banned substance listed in the 2022 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
The two-time grand slam champion has denied knowingly taking the banned substance.
“Today begins the hardest match of my life: a fight for the truth,” the 31-year-old said in a statement on social media Friday.
“I have been notified that I have tested positive for a substance called Roxadustat in an extremely low quantity, which came as the biggest shock of my life.
“Throughout my whole career, the idea of cheating never even crossed my mind once, as it is totally against all the values I have been educated with. Facing such an unfair situation, I feel completely confused and betrayed.
“I will fight until the end to prove that I have never knowingly took any prohibited substance and I have faith that sooner or later, the truth will come out.”
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Halep was informed of the violation on October 7 and exercised the right to request that the B sample be analyzed, which confirmed the finding in the A sample.
According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Roxadustat is a class of drug called HIF-stabilizing agents.
“Athletes can use these products to increase their red blood cell count, which is a very effective doping technique that increases the delivery of oxygen to working muscles to increase endurance performance,” said USADA on its website.
In a statement, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) – the organizing body for professional women’s tennis – said, “The ITIA administers the Tennis Anti-Doping Program (TADP) which provides for a thorough process. In this case, Simona has received a mandatory provisional suspension in accordance with the 2022 TADP.
“The WTA fully supports the TADP, as well as Simona, while having full confidence that the right outcome will be reached through the detailed process that is ahead.”
The Romanian tennis player will be ineligible to compete in or attend any tennis events organized by the governing bodies of the sport while suspended.
“It’s not about the titles or the money. It’s about honor, and the love story I have developed with the game of tennis over the last 25 years,” she added.
Halep had almost retired in 2021 but said she had fallen back in love with tennis this year.
She was knocked out of the first round of this year’s US Open in August, losing in three sets to then world No. 124 Daria Snigur.
Halep won her first grand slam at the French Open in 2018 and won her second at Wimbledon in 2019.