Sanction confirmed: complicated future for Simona Halep in tennis

The Romanian tennis player, former number 1 in the ranking, was provisionally suspended in October 2022. The sentence has now been confirmed for the positive doping done after the US Open and will be off the courts until October 2026.

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Halep's last game was at the 2022 US Open where she lost in the first round to Ukraine's Daria Snigur.
Halep's last game was at the 2022 US Open where she lost in the first round to Ukraine's Daria Snigur.

“The last year has been the toughest game of my life and unfortunately my fight continues,” Simona’s statement begins. “I have dedicated my life to the beautiful game of tennis. I take the rules that govern our sport very seriously and take pride in the fact that I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance. I am grateful to finally have a result after numerous unfounded delays and a feeling of living in purgatory for more than a year. I am both surprised and disappointed by the decision,” wrote the former number one on Instagram.

It was on October 21, 2022 when the news of the provisional suspension for the Romanian player was announced. At that time, Halep shared a message on her social media telling her community what happened. There she confirmed that the ITIA had taken the decision to suspend her for a few months after testing positive in a test carried out at the US Open.

After several months of trying to appeal the case and scheduling hearings to defend herself, which were rescheduled several times by the ITIA (International Agency for Tennis Integrity), the final decision of four years of sanction for the intake of Roxadustat was announced last September 12.

Roxadustat is a medication used to treat anemia in patients with kidney complications by stimulating EPO, thereby increasing the production of red blood cells that facilitate the transport of oxygen in the blood. Its intake can, for an athlete, provide greater endurance and recovery. Although it is classified by the AMA as “non-specific”, meaning that it is difficult to demonstrate how it was ingested - accidentally due to contamination, for example - it is included in the same section as erythropoietin (EPO) and has a four-year sanction.

At the time, Halep had stated that the positive result was due to an accidental ingestion due to contamination and that the dose found was very low. The ITIA soon assured that the dose ingested, high values, had not been accidental and that for this result, it was subject to a four-year penalty.

For its part, the WTA was quick to issue a statement in which it supports the International Agency’s decision, recalling that players must be up to date with anti-doping regulations and comply with them.

There don’t seem to be many options to reverse this decision. In her statement, Halep assured that she refuses to accept this resolution and that she will continue to train and do everything “in my power to clear my name of these false accusations.”

The reality is that by 2026, Simona will be 35 years old. She could even reduce her sentence to three years after pleading guilty, something that doesn’t seem to cross her mind as she continues to defend her position of never using any prohibited substance. Although the picture today is dark, it will be seen how much rest she has left to continue her sports career once the sanction is over.