Tennis Doping: 4 High Profile Cases That Stunned the Sport

Tennis Doping: 4 High Profile Cases That Stunned the Sport

by Alex Waite

Tennis doping has once again entered professional and public discussion following a week of controversy surrounding WTA player Simona Halep.

After 12 months of provisional suspension, Halep was given a four-year ban from tennis for anti-doping charges. The Romanian tested positive for the banned substance, roxadustat at the 2022 US Open.

Halep's ban was enforced by the International International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA). This is an independent organisation that oversees all cases of tennis doping cases in an attempt to ensure equality and integrity within professional tennis.

Since Halep received her extensive ban, which could signal the end of her career, players, and pundits have been divided on the sanction. Some have argued that the 31-year-old's tennis doping breaches warrant severe punishment and others believe the ruling is unfair.

Yet, Halep's case is just the latest in a long line of tennis doping scandals that have gripped the sport in recent decades.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova was one of the most talented players of her generation. The Russian player often went toe to toe with the best players ever in the game, in an era where the Williams sisters dominated.

But, later in her career, Sharapova was involved in a tennis doping case. After the 2016 Australian Open, the Russian player admitted to testing positive for meldonium, which was added to the banned substance list on January 1, 2016, weeks before the Australian Open.

Initially, Sharapova was banned from competitive tennis for two years after she explained she had used meldonium for a decade to help with illness and injury. Following a successful appeal, the five-time Grand Slam champion's ban was reduced to 15 months.

Despite having over a year out of the game, Sharapova returned to the court in April 2017. She went on to play for nearly three more years before retiring in February 2020.

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi's tennis doping scandal was one of the most shocking in the sport's history. In the 1980s and 1990s, fewer anti-doping regulations and procedures meant players were more prone to drug taking and using performance-enhancing drugs.

In 1997, Agassi tested positive for methamphetamine (crystal meth) and was given a three-month suspension by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the ATP. But the organisations cancelled the ban after Agassi explained he took the drug by accident after his drink was spiked.

Over ten years later, Agassi revealed the truth about his tennis doping case in his 2009 autobiography. The eight-time Grand Slam champion admitted that he lied to the WADA and ATP to avoid the three-month suspension and he publically shared that he was addicted to crystal meth at the time.

The scandal in 1997 also gave Agassi the motivation needed to get clean and to refocus on his tennis. After narrowly avoiding the ban, Agassi won five more career Grand Slams before retiring in 2006.

Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis' tennis career was full of ups and downs, including multiple retirements and five Grand Slam wins in just three years. But the Swiss player's lowest moment came following her anti-doping breach in 2007.

Having just returned to the WTA after retiring at the age of 22 in 2003, Hingis was under the spotlight again in 2007. In November of that year, she held a press conference to explain that she was being investigated for the use of a banned substance, benzoylecgonine, at Wimbledon.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) gave Hingis a strict punishment for her anti-doping breach. She was stripped of her WTA ranking, given a $120,000 fine and banned for two years.

However, Hingis always explained that she was innocent following the case. She even took an independent drug test that came back negative in order to prove her innocence.

Even after her ban was lifted in 2009, Hingis rarely featured at major events and played little tennis until 2013 when she returned to achieve sustained success in doubles by winning four Grand Slam titles between 2015 and 2017.


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