Former world No.1 Simona Halep broke her silence and spoke publicly for the first time since the provisional doping ban in October 2022.
The Romanian has been provisionally suspended for over six months and her return to the WTA Tour doesn't seem to be nearing with her doping hearings being pushed back. Initially, Halep didn't want to speak about it before but she has decided to break her silence.
In an exclusive interview with Tennis Majors, Halep asserts that she possesses evidence proving her innocence, but has been repeatedly denied the opportunity to present it in front of an independent tribunal. The two-time major champion is now fighting for her right to a fair and expedited hearing, as there was also no public announcement from the ITIA since their first statement was released.
"I have sent the evidence to the ITF and they denied it. I sent it in December when we first worked on it. The ITF denied it and we are still going through it. Since the ITF denied it, the only chance this case has to be solved is to go to the tribunal to have a hearing about my case, and present all the evidence that my positive test was contaminated."
Halep details the numerous setbacks in her quest for justice, explaining that her initial attempts to submit evidence to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) were rejected. She claims her sample was contaminated and sent the results to the ITF in December 2022, hoping for a tribunal hearing before the Indian Wells tournament. However, the ITF's delays and cancellations have caused significant frustration for the former world no. 1.
"I sent all the results in December to the ITF to show that there was a contamination in my sample but they denied it. I was looking for it every day. I had a big hope that I could go to the tribunal to have a hearing and then I would know if I could play Indian Wells or not."
According to Halep, the ITF has repeatedly requested more time for additional testing, resulting in postponed hearings and cancellations. Despite her provisional suspension, the former world No.1 has been denied an expedited hearing, as well as a request for the temporary lifting of her sanction to participate in competitions.
"Hearing on February 28th didn’t happen because the ITF requested more time to do additional testing. Even if I was looking through that, the hearing was postponed to March 24th. The ITF requested that the hearing on March 24th should be cancelled. I did not agree with that because as the rule says, a player that is provisionally suspended is entitled to get an expedited hearing. Everything takes so long. I asked the ITF to lift my sanction to be able to play but they also refused it."
Halep's next chance for a hearing is at the end of May, but she fears the ITF may cancel it once again. This would mark eight months since her provisional suspension, a period she considers unfairly long without a proper judgment from the Tribunal.
"The next step is a hearing at the end of May, but it is very fragile because the ITF said that they might cancel it as well. If they do that, it will be almost eight months since I’ve been provisionally suspended for the first time and I believe that it’s not fair to spend eight months without even being judged by the Tribunal."
Emotionally drained and overwhelmed, Halep has chosen to share her story with fans and the public. Despite wanting to remain silent until her case was resolved, the weight of her situation compelled her to voice her frustration and seek support, which she receives a lot of.
"Emotionally, the whole period has not been easy and I just felt the need to speak out loud to my fans, to my supporters, and actually to the whole public. I’m sure they really want to know what’s going on and why it’s taking so long. I wanted to remain silent until the case was solved but it’s too heavy, so I felt that it would be really good for me to speak about it out loud."