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Serena and her husband applaud! Doping scandal could end Halep’s career

Date: September 24, 2023 Time: 19:45:53

On September 12, the tennis world was shocked by sensational news: former Romanian world number one tennis player Simona Halep received a four-year disqualification for violating anti-doping rules. This day she has already clearly divided the athlete’s career into “before” and “after.” The former WTA ranking leader has already faced harsh criticism from some peers, and it seems this is just the beginning.

How the Halep doping scandal began

The 31-year-old man from Constanta was charged with two separate charges. The first of these concerned an unfavorable result in a doping test for the banned substance roxadustat at the 2022 US Open (considered a blood doping agent that increases the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells). The second charge was related to deviations in the indicators of the athlete’s biological passport. Halep denied the allegations all along.

“ITIA, for some reason unknown to me, persistently seeks to prove my guilt, although I never thought about taking prohibited substances,” Simone said.

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The independent court heard experts from the Romanian and the ITI (International Tennis Integrity Agency) at the end of June 2023, and the tennis player also testified directly before the commission as part of the procedure. On September 11, the court confirmed that it had established that Simone had committed an intentional anti-doping rule violation, namely:

the use of roxadustat, as evidenced by the athlete’s doping test dated August 29, 2022; the use of a prohibited substance or method during 2022, based on the collection and analysis of 51 blood samples provided by the player as part of the Athlete Biological Passport program.

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The court accepted the double individual winner’s argument that she had taken a “contaminated” food supplement. At the same time, the agency concluded that the dose taken by the tennis player could not lead to the concentration of roxadustat found in the doping sample. The court also concluded that there was no reason to doubt the “strong opinion” of three independent experts from the Department of Athlete Passport Management that “potential doping” was the cause of the irregularities in the athlete’s passport.

“The volume of evidence that the court had to consider in both the Roxadustat episode and the passport procedure was significant. The ITIA has followed the necessary procedures in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code to fulfill our purpose and responsibility to uphold the principle of fair competition in sport,” said ITIA CEO Karen Moorhouse.

Halep’s temporary suspension continues from October 2022. These 11 months will count towards the sentence. The former world number one will only be able to return to competition after October 6, 2026, that is, when she is already 35 years old. Terrible story.

How Halep herself reacted to the disqualification

The winner of 24 WTA titles reacted to the decision to suspend her for four years for violating anti-doping rules. The Romanian said she would go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and take legal action against the company she claims provided her with substandard supplements. Simone noted that she was “shocked and disappointed.”

Simona Halep

Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

“As of August 29, 2022, I have passed 200 blood and urine tests for prohibited substances; They were all clean. Looking ahead to the 2022 hard court season, following the advice of my trusted team and my physiotherapist, I have adjusted my nutritional supplements. None of the ingredients listed contained banned substances, but we now know – and the court has accepted – that one of them was contaminated with roxadustat. I was forced to be tested almost weekly until early 2023 after the first positive, and they all came back negative.

Despite this evidence, the ITIA only filed charges after its review team learned my identity, causing two of the three to suddenly change their minds in favor of the ITIA charges. ITIA was based solely on the opinions of these experts, who looked only at my blood parameters, which I have maintained in the same range for more than 10 years. This group ignored the fact that no illegal substances were ever found in my blood or urine samples, with the exception of a positive test for roxadustat on August 29, which was present at an extremely low level and that, given my negative result three days before, it may have been caused only by accidental exposure to roxadustat,” the 31-year-old Constanta native wrote on social media.

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The tennis world reacts to the Halep case

Patrick Mouratoglou, the coach of the Romanian tennis player suspended for doping, said he does not believe she is guilty:

“I can’t believe the ITIA made this decision in Simone’s case. I am extremely dismayed, as I was before at the methods of an organization that should treat players fairly and try to establish the truth. I know Simone’s honesty and I have no doubt that she has never used illegal drugs.

I sat with her for the entire two days of the hearing and I cannot believe the court made such a decision based on the evidence and arguments I heard. The trial was carried out unfairly towards Simone. I hope she wins her case before the CAS, which is the only court not controlled by the ITIA.

I hope that the WTA, the ATP and the players’ union do everything possible to change the system that destroys the careers of innocent people,” the French specialist wrote on the social network.

Naturally, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) also could not help but react to the disqualification of its star representative. The organization said it will support the decisions made during this process and will continue to closely monitor developments. “It is very important that players know and follow the TADP rules,” the WTA said in a statement.

“I am informed that Simona Halep has hired Ron Bergowitz from Berk Communications while she files an expedited appeal. Difficult decision today. A four-year disqualification is equivalent to the end of the career of a 31-year-old athlete…,” famous sports journalist Jon Wertheim wrote on Twitter.

Simona Halep and Serena Williams

Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

However, the most striking reaction was that of the world tennis legend Serena Williams. She liked the publication on the social network, which talks about the Romanian’s disqualification. The author of the publication was former tennis player Nicole Gibbs. “It’s a big disappointment when you find out that half of your sports idols cheated. “It’s very disappointing and makes the sport look so stupid, with unfair competition, and makes you wonder how many people go unnoticed (I think a lot),” Gibbs said on social media.

Williams Jr. liked this post. Furthermore, she herself wrote: “8 is the best number,” probably hinting at the number of victories she had at Wimbledon. The 41-year-old Saginaw native has won Wimbledon seven times and lost to Halep in the 2019 tournament final.

Halep criticism and other precedents

It may seem strange now, but Halep was previously an outspoken anti-doping activist. Simone harshly criticized the Russian Maria Sharapova, who served a disqualification for using meldonium). Simona Halep also spoke about the situation, noting that, unlike Maria, “she personally reviews the WADA list every year and, before taking anything, consults with competent people to exclude any possibility of doping.” When the Russian’s disqualification period expired, the Romanian was outraged by the wild card: “This is not a very good example for children when helping tennis players caught for doping. “I couldn’t admire her more.”

At the same time, it cannot be said that the Romanian has no chance of being acquitted. The story of Ukrainian tennis player Dayana Yastremska may be a reason for optimism. Let us remember that the athlete was suspended from participating in competitions due to doping charges. On January 7, 2021, metabolites of mesterolone, an androgenic anabolic, were found in the sample of a then-20-year-old athlete. On June 22, the ITF’s independent tribunal completely acquitted the Ukrainian.

The famous Odessa native managed to prove that she was not consciously doping. This was later reported in the full 34-page text of the independent court’s decision, published on the website of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). It turned out that Yastremskaya passed a polygraph test, the results of which confirmed 99% that the athlete had never doped in her life. The tennis player assured in court that the prohibited substance mesterolone entered her body as a result of her physical contact with her boyfriend. She didn’t know her partner was taking the drug. Yastremskaya and her boyfriend confirmed in court that they had sexual relations the day before the tennis player passed a doping test that showed the presence of a banned drug in her body.

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You can guess all you want whether fate decided to punish Halep for her insolence towards Sharapova or whether the current unpleasant story can be explained in another way. One thing is certain: despite her already ruined career, Simone herself, known for her incredible fighting spirit, will not give up. It is not necessary to address the Romanian case so unequivocally, since it has not yet been examined by the CAS. This means that the two-time TBS winner can still prove to the entire world that she is clean in front of the tennis community and in front of herself.

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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