LONDON: Romania's former world number one Simona Halep said on Tuesday that she would appeal to sport's highest court against the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) decision to ban her until October 2026 for two separate anti-doping rule violations.
The 31-year-old former Wimbledon and French Open champion has been provisionally suspended since October 2022 after testing positive for banned blood-booster roxadustat at the US Open last year.
Halep said she "refused to accept their (ITIA) decision of a four-year ban.
"I am continuing to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations and return to the court," Halep said in a statement.
"I intend to appeal this decision to The Court of Arbitration for Sport and pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question."
The ITIA said earlier on Tuesday it came to its conclusion based on the collection and analysis of 51 blood samples provided by Halep. Her suspension runs until October 6, 2026.
"The first (charge) 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 ITIA said in a statement.
"The second charge related to irregularities in Halep's Athlete Biological Passport (ABP)."
Halep strongly denies knowingly taking roxadustat and said she had evidence to show small amounts of the anaemia drug entered her system from a licensed supplement that was contaminated.
"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 ITIA said.
The ITIA said the ABP charge was also upheld as three independent experts were unanimous that "likely doping" was the explanation for the irregularities in Halep's profile.
"The volume of evidence for the tribunal to consider in both the roxadustat and ABP proceedings was substantial," Karen Moorhouse, CEO at the ITIA, said.
Halep had previously accused the ITIA of seeking to further delay her independent tribunal doping hearing and said she was being denied her right to be heard.
However, Moorhouse said the ITIA had followed the proper processes in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code.
" The panel recognised that appropriate procedure had been followed within the written decision," Moorhouse added. — Reuters