Lausanne | Halep will plead her case to CAS in February

Simona Halep, a two-time Grand Slam champion from Romania, has her appeal hearing set for February to challenge her 4-year ban for doping, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said on Tuesday.

My fight continues... Simona Halep

The 3-day hearing is scheduled for 7-9 February when the Court will hear Halep’s appeal against the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), but no target has been set for a verdict, which can take several months from the panel of 3 judges.

The 32-year-old was banned in September after testing positive at the 2022 US Open, which was later followed by alleged irregularities in her biological passport.

Halep, who reached No 1 in the WTA rankings in 2017, claims contaminated nutritional supplements caused her positive test for Roxadustat, which is said to stimulate the body to produce more of the natural hormone erythropoietin, or EPO, which has long been a doping product favoured by endurance athletes.

A panel of ITIA judges, however, determined in September that Halep had ‘committed intentional anti-doping rule violations’, and dismissed her argument that she may have experienced cross-contamination through the intake of a dietary supplement, and concluded that the doping violation by the former World No 1 was intentional.

Halep, who will be 35 when her ban is due to expire in October 2026, won the French Open in 2018 when she beat Sloane Stephens in the final, and captured the Wimbledon title a year later, beating Serena Williams.

Simona Halep's coach Patrick Mouratoglou feels responsible for his staff suggesting supplements that have been proven to be contaminated

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Her coach Patrick Mouratoglou recently admitted that he feels responsible for the doping ban, and hopes that it will be revoked, or, at the very least, that the sentence will be reduced.

Speaking in a video posted on Instagram, Mouratoglou, who has previously worked with the likes of Serena Williams and Holger Rune, said that he is very confident about the appeal.

According to the Frenchman, Halep’s team has been able to establish that the Roxadustat in her system was just from contamination, with the source being a collagen that he recommended to her.

For that very reason, Mouratoglou feels responsible for the unfortunate fate that has befallen Halep, whom he described as an innocent victim who never took part in intentional doping.

“I feel confident for the future of Simona Halep with her appeal to the CAS because it is an independent tribunal,” he said. “We have been able to establish where the contamination comes from. So we proposed her to take collagen and we brought her collagen from a company.

“This collagen happened to be contaminated, there was no way to know it. But I feel responsible for what happened because it’s my team. So it’s me basically who brought her this collagen.

“We have done all possible tests to establish that we are talking about a contamination. I’m very confident that this independent tribunal will recognise that she never did doping, she was a victim, and she has to come back to the court and compete as soon as possible.”

With very long bans now being enforced by the ITIA, Mouratoglou warned that athletes are at risk of having their entire careers and reputations ruined through no fault of their own.

“It opened my eyes on the fact that any athlete can become contaminated tomorrow because apparently this happens more and more,” he said. “We’re talking about extremely low levels of something. It has zero effect, but you happen to have in your system something that shouldn’t be there.

“Your career is stopped for a period of time that is extremely long. It can affect your whole career, it affects your reputation for a very unfair reason because you have done nothing. The companies that you decide to go with for supplements, you have to be sure at 100% that this cannot happen.”

Darren Cahill, Simona Halep's former coach, insists the Romania is innocent of any intentional doping

© Brenton Edwards/AFP via Getty Images

Halep went on a holiday to Greece in September after being hit with the news that her anti-doping hearing had been delayed.

“When life gives you a hundred reasons to break down and cry, show life that you have a million reasons to smile and laugh,” Halep captioned her Instagram Story.

She was dropped from the US Open field because of the provisional doping suspension, with the USTA announcing that the two-time Grand Slam champion and former No 1-ranked player ‘was automatically withdrawn’.

Darren Cahill, her former coach, has come to the Romanian’s defence a number of times, and has called out tennis’ governing bodies for their unfair handling of her case.

Halep and Cahill enjoyed a productive partnership as, under the Australian’s guidance, the Romanian won two Grand Slams and ascended to the World No 1, but, after 6 years together, they split in 2021 after mutually agreeing to end their arrangement.

“Another delay,” he said at the time. “The details of this case will eventually come to light but regardless of the outcome, this process has been handled appallingly by the ITF & ITIA. Zero care or concern for the athlete or her well-being with this case dragging on for nearly 12-months and still no judgement or resolution.

“I respect our testing program and a fair process but this has been anything but fair. Simona deserves the right to get on with her career and/or her life. At the moment she can do neither. No player should ever have to go through a process of delays like this again.

“The WTA, the board and the player council need to do better to ensure the players have some protection and rights to a quicker resolution. At the moment, they have none.

“I understood they found the source of the contamination, not sure if it was in food or supplements, but they found out where it came from. There’s no chance she cheated.

“She’s a great person, no chance that she did the wrong thing. I wish her good luck,” Cahill added. “Firstly, and most importantly, there is NO chance Simona knowingly or purposely took any substance on the banned list.

“None. Zero. She is an athlete that stressed about anything prescribed to her by a medical professional (which was rarely), or about any supplement that she used or considered. Simona wore out the words ‘please double check this, triple check this to make sure it’s legal, safe and permitted. If you are not sure, I’m not taking it’.” Cahill wrote on Instagram.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Halep has decided to relocate from Romania to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Originally from Constanza, the Romanian resided in a villa on the shores of Lake Snagov, near Bucharest, but put property up for sale.

Spanning 420 square meters, it features a luxurious home with a pool, fitness room, private courtyard, office, and a stunning lake view, and reportedly was sold for 4.2 million euros.

Halep has apparently invested the proceeds into the purchase of a property in Dubai, and continues to actively train, evidenced by her social media updates.

“My fight continues,” she wrote on her Instagram.



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