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Former tennis No. 1 says she can’t get a hearing for doping case

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Simona Halep is calling for a hearing to give her the chance to clear her name after being provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Integrity Agency in October.

In an interview with Tennis Majors earlier this week, the former world No. 1 spoke publicly for the first time since learning of a failed drug test at the US Open. She said that up to this point, she’s been denied a right to a hearing by an independent court.

“I didn’t want to get out and talk because it was very emotional,” Halep said. “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.”

At the US Open last year, Halep’s A and B samples both confirmed the presence of a blood booster, roxadustat, which is banned. The drug can stimulate the production of red blood cells, similarly to another banned substance erythropoietin.

Halep denied taking the substance knowingly and said that she has evidence proving that low-qualities of the drug entered her body from an authorized supplement that was contaminated.

She sent that evidence to the International Tennis Federation in December. Her case was scheduled to be heard by an independent tribunal in February. The hearing was postponed to a March date that was also pushed back. She now hopes to have the hearing in May.

“The ITF requested that the hearing on March 24 should be canceled,” Halep said. “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.”

In a statement, the ITF said that anti-doping cases do not fall under its jurisdiction. The ITIA said that Halep’s case was being processed in line with the World Anti-Doping Code.

Since her positive result, Halep says she has taken 10 tests, which have all been negative.

“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,” said the 31-year-old. “I’m not asking for special treatment. I just ask to be judged. How much longer is this going to take?”

Halep’s last match came in the first round of the 2022 US Open, when she was stunned by Daria Snigur in three sets. The Romanian has won two Grand Slam singles titles in her career, the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019.