Simona Halep Under Scrutiny for Second Doping Offence

The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) has announced that Simona Halep, a professional tennis player, is facing a new charge related to her biological passport profile.

Simona Halep, a two-time Grand Slam champion, has been accused of a second doping offense by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) due to irregularities found in her Athlete Biological Passport. This new charge is separate from the provisional suspension she received last year for failing a drug test during the U.S. Open in August. The ITIA has stated that the new accusation is in addition to the previous suspension and will be subject to further investigation.

Simona Halep, a 31-year-old tennis player from Romania, achieved the No. 1 ranking in the WTA rankings in 2017. She has had notable successes in her career, including winning Wimbledon in 2019 by defeating Serena Williams in the final, as well as winning the French Open a year earlier.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) has accused Halep of a new doping offense based on an assessment of her biological passport profile by an expert panel. Athlete Biological Passports serve as a reference for the substances present in an athlete's body, aiding in the monitoring and detection of doping practices. The ITIA's charge suggests that irregularities were found in Halep's passport, leading to the accusation of a second doping offense.

Statement by  Nicole Sapstead

“We understand that today’s announcement adds complexity to an already high-profile situation. From the outset of this process — and indeed any other at the ITIA — we have remained committed to engaging with Ms. Halep in an empathetic, efficient, and timely manner,” Nicole Sapstead, the group’s senior director for anti-doping, said in a statement.

Halep’s Post

In a social media post, Halep wrote Friday that she has “lived the worst nightmare I have ever gone through in my life” since being initially charged by the ITIA.

She continued, saying her “name has been soiled in the worst possible way” and that the ITIA is determined “to prove my guilt while I haven’t EVER even thought of taking any illicit substance.”

Halep’s post says she was a “victim of contamination” and always has “been totally against any sort of cheating.”

“I look forward to finally being able to present my case at my hearing that is scheduled at the end of May,” she said.

Simona Halep's doping accusation makes her the most prominent tennis player since Maria Sharapova to face a ban for doping. Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, tested positive for a newly banned substance at the 2016 Australian Open. Initially, she received a two-year suspension, but her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport resulted in a reduced penalty. The court ruled that Sharapova had "less than significant fault" and couldn't be considered an intentional doper.

Prior to the public announcement of her provisional suspension, Halep had revealed in September that she would take the remainder of the season off to undergo nose surgery aimed at improving her breathing. She had contemplated retirement earlier in 2022 due to a series of injuries but experienced a resurgence after teaming up with coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who had previously worked with Serena Williams.

During the U.S. Open, Halep, seeded No. 7, suffered a first-round loss to Daria Snigur of Ukraine on August 30. This defeat marked Snigur's first career victory at the tour level.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) stated that Simona Halep tested positive for the banned substance Roxadustat during the tournament in New York. Roxadustat is a drug approved for medical use in the European Union to alleviate the symptoms of anaemia caused by chronic kidney failure.

According to the European Medicines Agency, which authorized Roxadustat in the previous year, the drug stimulates the body to produce more erythropoietin (EPO), a natural hormone. EPO has been a popular doping product among cyclists and distance runners.

While under provisional suspension, a tennis player is ineligible to participate in or attend any sanctioned events.