Simona Halep, who won Wimbledon in 2019, said the positive drugs test is "the biggest shock of her life"; she returned a positive test after the US Open
Friday 21 October 2022 23:20, UK
Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep vowed to clear her name and branded her failed doping test "the biggest shock of my life".
The International Tennis Integrity Agency announced on Friday the world number nine tested positive for the blood-boosting drug Roxadustat at the US Open and has been provisionally suspended.
"Simona Halep, a 31-year-old Romanian tennis player, has been provisionally suspended under Article 7.12.1 of the 2022 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP)," the body said in a statement.
Halep won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon the following year. She the highest-profile tennis player to fail a drugs test since Maria Sharapova six years ago.
The 31-year-old issued a statement on her social media channels, saying: "Today begins the hardest match of my life: a fight for the truth.
"I have been notified that I have tested positive for a substance called Roxadustat in an extremely low quantity, which came as the biggest shock of my life.
"Throughout my whole career, the idea of cheating never even crossed my mind once, as it is totally against all the values I have been educated with.
"Facing such an unfair situation, I feel completely confused and betrayed. I will fight until the end to prove that I never knowingly took any prohibited substance and I have faith that, sooner or later, the truth will come out.
"It's not about the titles or money. It's about honour, and the love story I have developed with the game of tennis over the last 25 years."
Halep suffered a shock loss to Daria Snigur in the first round of the US Open this year, which brought an end to her season following nasal surgery and was told of her failed test on October 7.
The former world No 1 requested her B sample was analysed, which confirmed the finding of the A sample.
Roxadustat has been linked to doping in the past, with the United States Anti-Doping Agency retesting samples in 2016 after saying it had been tipped off about the anaemia drug's use by athletes.
The banned substance increases the production of red blood cells, helping endurance, and is in the same category of banned substances as EPO.
Halep turned professional in 2006, making her WTA main draw debut in 2010 at the Andalucia Tennis Experience.
She reached her first Grand Slam final in 2014, when she lost at the French Open to Sharapova.
After also losing finals at Roland Garros (2017) and Australian Open (2018), Halep finally won her first major when she beat Sloane Stephens in the 2018 French Open and she went on to defeat Serena Williams to claim a maiden Wimbledon title in 2019.
Halep has returned to the top 10 this season following injury problems last year, reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon and winning WTA Tour titles in Melbourne and Toronto.