SIMONA HALEP has been slapped with a whopping FOUR-YEAR ban for her anti-doping violation.
The former World No.1 tested positive for the prohibited anti-anaemia drug Roxadustat after last year's US Open.
Roxadustat is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list due to its ability to increase haemoglobin and red blood cell count – which would be beneficial for an athlete in a cardiovascular-based sport.
The 2019 Wimbledon singles champion, 31, was hit with a provisional suspension by the International Tennis Integrity Agency last October.
The ITIA, upon further investigation, discovered further irregularities in the Romanian's biological passport.
Halep revealed in May that her team had discovered that a tainted supplement was the cause of the positive test.
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The ITIA accepted her explanation for the violation, but that hasn't stopped them from slapping her with a four-year suspension.
An excerpt of a statement read: "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 ABP charge was also upheld, with the tribunal stating that they had no reason to doubt the unanimous “strong opinion” reached by each of the three independent Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU) experts that “likely doping” was the explanation for the irregularities in Halep’s profile.
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"Halep has been provisionally suspended since October 2022, which the tribunal credited against the period of ineligibility.
"As such, the former world number one’s suspension will run from 7 October 2022 until 6 October 2026."
Halep plans to appeal her potentially career-ending ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
She roared: "I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban."
Halep's defiant statement continued:"My representatives and I presented the ITIA and the tribunal with compelling evidence in support of my defense, including multiple legitimate questions regarding the conclusions reached around my Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) testing.
"While I am grateful to finally have an outcome following numerous unfounded delays and a feeling of living in purgatory for over a year, I am both shocked and disappointed by their decision.
"I believe in a clean sport and in almost two decades as a professional tennis player, through hundreds of tournaments and two Grand Slam titles, I have taken 200 blood and urine tests to check for prohibited substances – all of which have been clean, until August 29, 2022.
"Ahead of the hard court season in 2022, upon recommendation from my trusted team and physiotherapist, I adjusted my nutritional supplements.
"None of the listed ingredients included any prohibited substances however we now know – and the tribunal agreed – one of them was contaminated with roxadustat.
"I was tested almost weekly after my initial positive test through early 2023, all of which came back negative.
"Despite this evidence, the ITIA brought an ABP charge only after its expert group learned my identity, causing two out of three to suddenly change their opinion in favour of ITIA’s allegations.
"The ITIA relied solely on the opinions of these experts who looked only at my blood parameters – which I’ve maintained for more than 10 years in the same range.
"This group ignored the fact no prohibited substance has ever been found in my blood or urine samples with the sole exception of one August 29 positive test for roxadustat, which was present at an extremely low level and which, when considering my negative test three days prior, could only have been caused by accidental exposure to roxadustat.
"I am eternally grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from my family, friends, and tennis fans around the world.
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"I am continuing to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations and return to the court.
"I intend to appeal this decision to The Court of Arbitration for Sport and pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question."
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