Lausanne | CAS reduces Halep 4-year ban to 9 months, allowing for her immediate return to competition

Former World No 1 Simona Halep has had her 4-year ban for doping reduced to 9 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and can return to the WTA tour immediately.

This ordeal has been a testament to resilience, and the triumph of truth is a bittersweet vindication that, albeit delayed, is immensely gratifying. Simona Halep

“The CAS Panel has unanimously determined that the four-year period of ineligibility imposed by the ITF Independent Tribunal is to be reduced to a period of ineligibility of nine (9) months starting on 7 October 2022, which period expired on 6 July 2023,” the CAS statement reads.

“As that period expired before the appeal procedures were even lodged with the CAS, the CAS Panel has determined it appropriate to issue the operative part of the Arbitral Award as soon as practicable, together with a comprehensive media release.”

Halep was the highest-profile tennis player since Maria Sharapova to fail a drugs test, and will now look to rebuild her stalled pro tennis career.

“In the midst of this challenging journey, my unwavering belief in the integrity of the truth and in the principles of justice has been my beacon,” Halep wrote on Instagram. “Despite facing daunting accusations and formidable opposition, my spirit remained buoyant, anchored in my unwavering conviction of being a clean athlete.

“This ordeal has been a testament to resilience, and the triumph of truth is a bittersweet vindication that, albeit delayed, is immensely gratifying.”

While the two-time Grand Slam champion has always maintained her innocence, the 32-year old from Romania had feared her career might be over if the original suspension was upheld, after she was originally banned from the WTA Tour in October 2022.

Although her case was partially upheld, though, CAS ruled that Halep ‘on the balance of probabilities’ had not taken roxadustat intentionally.

The 32-year old Romanian has expressed her delight at the decision on Instagram

© Michael Errey/AFP via Getty Images

After the US Open in 2022, Halep tested positive for roxadustat, which is an anti-anaemia drug that stimulates the production of red blood cells in the body, and then an additional charge was made by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) in May 2023, when irregularities were also found in her athlete biological passport (ABP).

“Having carefully considered all the evidence put before it, the CAS Panel determined that Ms Halep had established, on the balance of probabilities, that the roxadustat entered her body through the consumption of a contaminated supplement which she had used in the days shortly before 29 August 2022,” CAS said in a statement. “The roxadustat, as detected in her sample, came from that contaminated product.

“As a result, the CAS Panel determined that Ms Halep had also established, on the balance of probabilities, that her anti-doping rule violations were not intentional.

“Although the CAS Panel found that Ms Halep did bear some level of fault or negligence for her violations, as she did not exercise sufficient care when using the Keto MCT supplement, it concluded that she bore no significant fault or negligence.”

The CAS panel also dismissed any wrong-doing with regards to discrepancies with Halep’s ABP, saying: “Contrary to the reasoning of the first instance tribunal, the CAS panel determined that it was appropriate in the circumstances to consider the results of a private blood sample given by Ms Halep on September 9, 2022 in the context of a surgery which occurred shortly thereafter.

“Those results, and Ms Halep’s public statements that she did not intend to compete for the remainder of the 2022 calendar year, impacted the plausibility of the doping scenarios relied upon by the International Tennis
Federation independent tribunal.

“Having regard to the evidence as a whole, the CAS panel was not comfortably satisfied that an anti-doping rule violation had occurred. It therefore dismissed that charge.”

In response to the ruling, ITIA Chief Executive Officer, Karen Moorhouse, said: “An essential element of the anti-doping process is a player’s ability to appeal, and the ITIA respects both their right to do so, and the outcome.”

The ITIA had appealed seeking an even longer ban, but this is a major victory for Halep, who was staring at the end of her career if the original sanction had stood, and the ITIA was ordered to pay her £18,000 in legal fees and expenses.

The court also ordered that ‘all results obtained by Halep in competitions taking place between August 29, 2022 – October 7, 2022 are disqualified with all resulting consequences, including forfeiture of any medals, titles, ranking points and prize money’.

Simona Halep has been keeping in shape and is expected to return to the WTA Tour in time for the European Clay Court swing, if not earlier

© Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Halep is expected to return to the tour, now that the ban has been lifted, and, no doubt, will look to compete for Grand Slam titles again, having won the French Open in 2018 and then Wimbledon the following year, but she has yet to announce when she plans to continue her playing career.

“The nightmare that I have lived for a year and a half is finished,” Halep wrote in a statement following the appeals process in February. “I had the chance to present my defence… to show that I never did any kind of doping. This is what I have said from the first day I was accused.”

She was just the 3rd Romanian woman to reach the Top 10 of the WTA rankings, and only the second to win a major title, after Virginia Ruzici.

A natural on clay surfaces, Halep will be keen to get back on the court in time for the European clay court season, and has been in training as she awaited the CAS verdict following the appeal hearing, which took place from 7-9 February at CAS Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to my legal team, whose steadfast faith and exceptional dedication have been instrumental in navigating through these turbulent times,” Halep added on Instagram. “Equally, my sponsors, loyal fans, and some commendable competitors have been my pillars of strength, offering unwavering support and solidarity.”

The WTA has welcomed the CAS decision stating: “The WTA respects the processes that are in place to protect the integrity of the sport and provide a clean and fair sporting environment.

“With this, the WTA fully supports the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and we welcome Simona’s immediate return to play.”



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