The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) can confirm that an independent tribunal has suspended Romanian tennis player Simona Halep for a period of four years following breaches of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP).
Two-time Grand Slam title champion Halep, 31, was charged with two separate breaches of the TADP. The first related to an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for the prohibited substance roxadustat at the US Open in 2022, carried out through regular urine testing during competition. The second charge related to irregularities in Halep’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).
The independent tribunal, established by Sport Resolutions, met on 28 and 29 June 2023 in London, and heard from expert scientific witnesses on behalf of Halep and the ITIA, with the player also giving evidence directly to the panel as part of proceedings.
On 11 September 2023, the tribunal confirmed that it had found the player had committed intentional Anti-Doping Rule Violations under Article 2 of the TADP:
- The presence and use of roxadustat as evidenced in Halep’s urine sample collected on 29 August 2022 at the US Open
- Use of a prohibited substance or method during 2022, based on collection and analysis of 51 blood samples provided by the player as part of the ABP programme
The tribunal accepted Halep’s argument that they 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 ABP charge was also upheld, with the tribunal stating that they had no reason to doubt the unanimous “strong opinion” reached by each of the three independent Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU) experts that “likely doping” was the explanation for the irregularities in Halep’s profile.
Halep has been provisionally suspended since October 2022, which the tribunal credited against the period of ineligibility. As such, the former world number one’s suspension will run from 7 October 2022 until 6 October 2026. The case remains subject to appeal.
Karen Moorhouse, Chief Executive Officer at the ITIA, said: “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.
“We do understand the significant public interest in these cases and remain committed to being as transparent as possible and the full decision will be published in due course.”
The ITIA is the delegated third party, under the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) of the International Tennis Federation, the international governing body for the sport of tennis and signatory of the Code. The ITIA is an independent body responsible for the management and administration of anti-doping across professional tennis.
About the roxadustat AAF
Roxadustat is a substance legitimately used for the treatment of anaemia but is on the WADA Prohibited Substance list as it is considered a blood doping agent, which increases haemoglobin and the production of red blood cells.
The statement for Halep’s first charge – which triggered the initial provisional suspension - can be read by clicking here.
About the ABP process
Although the ITIA is an independent body working on behalf of the key bodies in professional tennis to oversee the anti-corruption and anti-doping programmes, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-mandated ABP programme is managed by independent scientists with specific expertise in blood doping matters, in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC).
Known as the Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU), it monitors athletes’ biological parameters to identify potential Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs). For tennis players, the APMU reports any irregularities to an independent expert panel of three expert anti-doping scientists for review. This process occurs on an anonymous basis, with the APMU and expert panel unaware of the identity of the individual in question until later in the process.
As such, at the point suspicions were raised over the player’s ABP with the ITIA, the APMU and expert panel of the Montreal WADA-accredited laboratory did not know that the passport information belonged to Simona Halep.
The statement for Halep’s ABP charge can be read by clicking here.
More information on the Athlete Biological Passport can be found here.
About the hearing
The player called evidence from four expert witnesses: Professor Alvarez, Professor Coquerel, Professor Kintz and Paul Scott.
The ITIA called evidence from one expert witness on the AAF: Dr Daniel Eichner, President of the WADA-accredited Sports Medicine and Research Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City and responsible for the development of a WADA-approved test method for roxadustat.
In addition, solely in relation to the ABP charge, the tribunal also heard from the independent expert panel. The members of the independent expert panel are: Dr. Laura Garvican-Lewis, Director of Science at the United States Anti-Doping Agency, Professor Giuseppe D’Onofrio, Professor in Clinical and Laboratory Haematology and in Clinical Pathology, Rome, Italy, and Jakob Mørkeberg, Senior Science Manager at Anti-Doping Denmark.
The independent tribunal received approximately 8000 pages of scientific and other evidence from the player and the ITIA.
Published 12 September 2023 16:00