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Simona Halep confirms tennis return at Miami Open following doping ban

Halep will make her comeback to the WTA Tour in Miami Gardens after her doping ban was reduced from four years to nine months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport

FILE - Simona Halep, of Romania, returns a shot to Daria Snigur, of Ukraine, during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis championships Aug. 29, 2022, in New York. Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the four-year ban she received for doping violations. The court said Tuesday, Oct. 24, 20234 it has registered Halep's appeal of the International Tennis Integrity Agency's decision in September. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Image: Simona Halep in action during the first round of the 2022 US Open - her last competitive match

Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep has confirmed she will return to competitive tennis at the Miami Open later this month.

The 32-year-old was given a ban by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) for "intentional" doping offences, but after serving nine months of an initial four-year suspension, she is able to return to competitive action.

Halep, the former world No 1, will make her return at the Hard Rock Stadium in Florida in a tournament that gets under way from March 17.

"I'm thrilled to let you all know that I will be making my return to the WTA Tour in two weeks at the Miami Open," said the Romanian star. "Thank you to the tournament for giving me this opportunity and I cannot wait to be back on court and competing. See you all soon!"

Halep hasn't competed since the 2022 US Open where she lost in the first round to Ukrainian qualifier Daria Snigur and tested positive for banned substance Roxadustat.

Having already served a provisional suspension last year, she is set to return with immediate effect as the ban expired on July 6, 2023 and she has already served a penalty of more than nine months.

Halep has said her use of the drug, used to treat anemia associated with chronic kidney disease and also can increase endurance, was unintentional. The CAS agreed, saying it was probable that the drug likely "entered her body through the consumption of a contaminated supplement" in the days she used it before the start of US Open, where her sample was collected, and that her "anti-doping rule violations were not intentional."

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Halep has 24 career victories on the WTA Tour, including the 2018 French Open and at Wimbledon in 2019, and has won $40.2m in prize money. She reached No 1 in October 2017.

In a statement following the news she would be able to return, Halep expressed relief and gratitude for the support she received during her hiatus.

"Throughout this long and difficult process, I have maintained my belief that the truth will eventually come out and that a fair decision will be reached because I am and always have been a clean athlete," she said.

"My faith in this process has been tested by the outrageous allegations that have been brought against me and the seemingly unlimited resources that have been aligned against me.

"But in the end, the truth prevailed, even if it took a lot longer than I would have liked.

"I would like to thank my lawyers who stood by me and believed in me from the beginning; and most importantly, I want to thank my sponsors, fans and competitors who have stuck by me through this long and difficult process. I can't wait to get back on the circuit."

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