International Sports

Tennis Star Simona Halep Accused of Doping

Nadia Liu

PR Manager

On Oct 21, Simona Halep, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion and former world No. 1, received a provisional suspension for a positive drug test during the U.S. Open this summer. Halep and the tennis community are adamant that she is innocent.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency announced that Halep had tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug roxadustat, a drug commonly used to treat anemia. The agency stated that “while provisionally suspended, the player is ineligible to compete in or attend any sanctioned tennis events organized by

 the governing bodies of the sport.” Roxadustat, a drug produced by San Francisco biopharmaceutical company FibroGen, is not approved in the U.S. The drug benefits athletes by boosting red blood cell production, thereby increasing the amount of available oxygen and enhancing endurance. Unless Halep is able to overturn the finding, she may face a suspension of up to four years. 

Following the suspension, the Romanian tweeted a statement claiming her innocence. She called the positive test the “biggest shock of my life” and wrote, “the idea of cheating never even crossed my mind once, as it is totally against all the values I have been educated with.” In the statement, Halep vows to clear her name, explaining that her fight for the truth is “not about the titles or the money,” but about honor and her love of the game. 

Many in the tennis world are siding with Halep, including her former coach, Darren Cahill, her current coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, and the Romanian Tennis Federation. In an Instagram post, Cahill wrote, “Even though I’m no longer working with Simona, I’d like to speak clearly to the person I know and the athlete that I worked with for 6 years. Firstly, and most importantly, there is NO chance Simona knowingly or purposely took any substance on the banned list. None. Zero.” Cahill proceeded to laud Halep for her honesty and expressed his support for his former player. Her current coach, who formerly coached players Serena Williams and Stefanos Tsitsipas, also defended Halep, writing, “I support you 100 percent in this fight, Simona. All the way through.” The Romanian Tennis Federation says it’s standing by Halep, as is tennis pro Alize Cornet, both of whom have sent messages of support.

Halep is one of the most successful players in tennis history, spending over seven years in the top ten and has won over 40 million dollars over the course of her career. In early September, Halep announced that she had nose surgery to remove a significant blockage and improve the quality of her breathing, ending her 2022 season. The 31-year-old said that she was excited to rejoin tennis in 2023, but those plans are now dependent on the outcome of any appeals she makes regarding the suspension and drug violation. 

(Sources: ESPN, NPR, NY Times)

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