Halep vehemently asserted her innocence and vowed to vigorously contest the allegations, emphasizing the minuscule quantity of roxadustat involved. She attributed her positive test to a contaminated supplement and criticized the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) for alleged delays in her hearing process.
Nearly a year after her provisional suspension, Halep has been found guilty of two distinct violations under the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme. The second charge pertains to irregularities in her biological passport, based on the analysis of 51 blood samples.
While the ITIA acknowledged Halep's assertion of a contaminated supplement, they determined that the concentration of roxadustat in her sample could not have arisen solely from this source. A panel of three experts from the Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU) independently investigated the biological passport charge and unanimously indicated the likelihood of doping being responsible for the discrepancies.
Consequently, the 31-year-old tennis star faces a ban extending until October 2026, with 11 months already served, raising doubts about the remainder of her career.
ITIA CEO Karen Moorhouse stated in a press release:
"After a complex and rigorous hearing process, we welcome the independent tribunal's decision. The volume of evidence for the tribunal to consider in both the roxadustat and ABP proceedings was substantial.
"The ITIA has followed the proper processes as we would with any other individual - in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code - fulfilling our purpose and responsibility to uphold the principle of fair competition, on behalf of the sport. The panel recognised that appropriate procedure had been followed within the written decision.
"We do understand the significant public interest in these cases and remain committed to being as transparent as possible and the full decision will be published in due course."
Halep, who won the 2018 French Open and beat Serena Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final, can try to overturn her four-year ban. This ban is twice as long as Maria Sharapova's suspension after failing a drug test in 2016.