Double Grand Slam tennis champion Simona Halep has been banned by the ITIA for four years for anti-doping rule violations ©Getty Images

Double Grand Slam tennis champion Simona Halep of Romania has been banned for four years for anti-doping rule violations.

An independent tribunal has suspended the 31-year-old, winner of the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon the following year, for breaches of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP).

The tribunal found the presence of roxadustat in a urine sample collected by Halep while she was competing at the 2022 US Open.

It also found the Romanian player guilty of the use of a prohibited sample or method during 2022, based on the collection and analysis of 51 blood samples provided by the player as part of her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).

The tribunal accepted Halep’s argument that she had taken a contaminated supplement, but determined the volume the player ingested could not have resulted in the concentration of roxadustat found in the positive sample.   

The tribunal added they had no reason to doubt the unanimous "strong opinion" reached by each of the three independent Athlete Passport Management Unit experts that "likely doping" was the explanation for the irregularities in Halep’s profile.

Halep has been provisionally suspended since October 2022, which is counting towards her suspension, which runs until October 6 2026.

Simona Halep has two tennis Grand Slam titles to her name, including Wimbledon in 2019 ©Getty Images
Simona Halep has two tennis Grand Slam titles to her name, including Wimbledon in 2019 ©Getty Images

Halep is set to appeal the verdict to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

After being charged with a second anti-doping rule violation in May this year, Halep posted on social media that she was the "victim of a contamination", and added that "I feel helpless facing such harassment and a motivation on their behalf [the International Tennis Integrity Agency] to prove me guilty of something I never did."

Following today's verdict Halep posted a statement on social media saying she "refuses to accept the decision."

"Today a tribunal under the TADP announced a tentative decision in my case," Halep wrote.

"The last year has been the hardest match of my life, and unfortunately my fight continues.

"I have dedicated my life to the beautiful game of tennis.

"I take the rules that govern our sport extremely seriously and take pride in the fact that I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance.

"I refuse to accept their decision of a four-year ban.

"My representatives and I presented the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) with compelling evidence evidence in support of my defence, including multiple legitimate questions regarding the conclusions reached around my ABP testing.

Simona Halep's first Grand Slam title came when she won the 2018 French Open ©Getty Images
Simona Halep's first Grand Slam title came when she won the 2018 French Open ©Getty Images

"While I am grateful to finally have an outcome following numerous unfounded delays and a feeling of living in purgatory for over a year, I am both shocked and disappointed by their decision.

"I am eternally grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from my family, friends, and tennis fans around the world.

"I am continuing to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations and return to the court.

"I intend to appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question."  

ITIA chief executive Karen Moorhouse said after the decision was issued: "After a complex and rigorous hearing process, we welcome the independent tribunal’s decision.  

"The volume of evidence for the tribunal to consider in both the roxadustat and ABP proceedings was substantial. 

"The ITIA has followed the proper processes as we would with any other individual - in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code - fulfilling our purpose and responsibility to uphold the principle of fair competition, on behalf of the sport. 

"The panel recognised that appropriate procedure had been followed within the written decision."

The ITIA added that the full decision in the Halep case would be published "in due course."