The ancient world no. 1 Simona Halep has been provisionally suspended from tennis after testing positive for a banned 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 on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) 2022 banned 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 told a statement on social media Friday.
“I have been notified that I have tested positive for a substance called Roxadustat in an extremely low amount, which was the biggest shock of my life.
“During my entire career, the idea of cheating never once crossed my mind, as it goes completely against all the values I was brought up with. Faced with such an unfair situation, I feel completely confused and betrayed.
“I will fight to the end to prove that I have never knowingly taken any banned substance and I have faith that sooner or later the truth will come out.”
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Halep was informed of the breach on 7 October and exercised her right to request that the B sample be analysed, which confirmed the finding in the A sample.
According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Roxadustat is in a class of drugs called HIF stabilizing agents.
“Athletes can use these products to increase their red blood cell count, which is a highly effective doping technique that increases oxygen delivery to working muscles to increase endurance performance,” USADA said on its website .
In a statement, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the governing body of professional women’s tennis, said: “The ITIA administers the Tennis Anti-Doping Program (TADP) which provides for a comprehensive process. In this case, Simona has received a mandatory interim suspension in accordance with TADP 2022.
“The WTA fully supports the TADP, as well as Simona, while having full confidence that the correct outcome will be achieved through the detailed process ahead.”
The Romanian tennis player will not be able to participate in or attend any tennis events organized by the sport’s governing bodies while suspended.
“It’s not about titles or money. It’s about honor and the love affair I’ve developed with tennis over the last 25 years,” he 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 her second at Wimbledon in 2019.