London: Former world No 1 Simona Halep has called on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to give her the chance to clear her name after she was provisionally suspended in October for failing a drugs test.
The Romanian former Wimbledon and French Open champion was tested during last year’s US Open and both her A and B samples confirmed the presence of banned blood-booster roxadustat.
Halep strenuously denies knowingly taking a banned substance and says she has evidence, which proves low quantities of the anti-anaemia drug entered her body because of an authorised supplement that was contaminated.
Denier her right
In an interview with Tennis Majors, her first since learning of her failed drugs test, Halep said she has so far been denied her right to be heard by an independent court.
“I didn’t want to get out and talk because it was very emotional,” Halep, who at the time described her failed test as the ‘biggest shock of her life’, told Tennis Majors.
“Actually, I couldn’t handle it very well. But now I feel the need to speak out loud to my supporters, my fans, and to the public because I am sure they really want to know why it’s taking so long and I really felt the need to do that.” Halep says she sent evidence about the contamination to the ITF in December and hoped her case would be heard by an independent tribunal in February but that it was postponed and then a new date in March had also been put back.
“The ITF requested that the hearing on March 24 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 says she has undertaken 10 tests since her positive result, with all of them coming back negative.
She now hopes to have a hearing in May but fears that may also be cancelled.
Determined to come back
“I believe that it’s not fair to spend eight months without even being judged by the Tribunal. Emotionally, the whole period has not been easy,” the 31-year-old Halep said.
“I’m not asking for special treatment. I just ask to be judged. How much longer is this going to take?”
Halep says she has taken heart from the support of the public and her coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who she says has stood by her through every step of the process.
She says she is determined to come back and challenge for major titles again.
“It made me feel stronger to come back and work harder to get back to the level that I was at before, and even higher,” she said. “Until now, this is the hardest battle I’ve faced in my life and career. I really want to play again because I love this sport and I want to play for the big titles again.”
Roxadustat stimulates the production of red blood cells much like the prohibited substance Erythropoietin (EPO).