The Romanian star tested positive for Roxadustat - a prohibited substance under the World Anti-Doping Agency code (WADA) and TADP (Tennis Anti-Doping Programme) - at last year's US Open. She was provisionally suspended from tennis-related competitions imminently.
Following an intense, year-long battle waiting for a conclusive verdict, the independent tribunal ruled that the two-time major champion's Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) regarding Roxadustat was intentional as detailed in a 126-page report, and the ITIA charged her with a second count for inconsistency with her biological passport.
Halep has categorically refuted the decision while speaking to Front Office Sports. She was convinced the tribunal would rule in her favor after she presented her arguments in June in London court. So when the verdict came out this past week, she was shocked, stating that there was 'no proof' she was doping.
"I was confident after the hearing because there were so many things that made no sense and that are not fair. When I received the decision, I was in complete shock. I could not believe that they suspended me for four years when we found the contamination and my blood was totally normal."
"They didn’t find anything bad in my blood. It’s crazy that they made this decision with everything. They judged me on scenarios. There is no proof. It’s just insane."
The ban includes the provisional suspension that Halep served while pending review and three more years will be added on top, taking the expiry of the suspension on October 6th, 2026. Halep will be 35 by then, and her attorney Howard Jacobs reckons the punishment is a career killer. The player describes the whole ordeal as a 'disaster'.
"Mentally, it’s been a disaster for me because I wasn’t expecting something like this. I’ve always been careful with what I put in my body, and I have never taken something without checking. So, it is a shock."
Halep also claimed that she had grasped sufficient knowledge about Roxadustat since the suspension. The 31-year-old says she would have completely avoided it as it would trigger a thyroid issue, something she's been suffering for years.
In the midst of all this, Halep has not been able to maintain her focus and abolished his training routine on tennis courts. In the meantime, she will be hitting the gym to stay in perfect shape.
"Tennis is tough to focus on. I need to stay healthy. It’s emotional (being on the tennis court). When you are drained emotionally, you can get hurt physically. I am trying to protect myself, so I will keep going to the gym to stay in shape."