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Former world number 1 Simona Halep will return to tennis at the Miami in the next week after being cleared to play as a result of having her doping ban reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland last week. 

Halep, who had returned two positive samples for Roxadustat, a drug that can build endurance by stimulating the production of red blood cells, on the day of her 2022 US Open first-round loss, appealed her initial four-year suspension handed down in the first instance by the International Tennis Federation Independent Tribunal.  

Although CAS has not yet handed down its full judgment which will be published in due course, a two-page media release of its findings was released where the CAS panel unanimously found that “on the balance of probabilities that [Halep’s] anti-doping rule violations were not intentional”. 

Notwithstanding that the Romanian was not deemed to have committed an intentional breach of the anti-doping code, Halep was still found to bear “some level of fault or negligence” for allowing the substance to enter her system, Halep can return to competitive tennis immediately having already served a provisional suspension since October 2022.  

The CAS also found, contrary to the findings of the ITF Independent Tribunal, relevant to consider a blood sample given by Halep in the course of a medical procedure that found no contamination two weeks either side of two positive samples given by Halep in August and September 2022. 

Upon learning of her successful appeal, Halep took to Instagram to express her thoughts. 

“In the midst of this challenging journey, my unwavering belief in the integrity of truth and in the principles of justice has been my beacon” she shared.

“Despite facing daunting accusations and formidable opposition, my spirit remained buoyant, anchored in my unwavering conviction of being a clean athlete.  

“This ordeal has been a testament to resilience, and the triumph of truth is a bittersweet vindication that, albeit delayed, is immensely gratifying.”

An integral part of the Halep defence was a belief that a supplement taken, one that was recommended by her coach Patrick Mouratoglou, was contaminated with Roxadustat.  Halep has since filed a lawsuit against the company behind the supplement, Quantum Nutrition which trades as Schinoussa Superfoods, in a New York state court seeking USD $10m in compensatory damages; likely for economic loss due to her inability to compete and any lost sponsorships as well as reputational damage.  

Halep is also seeking an additional order of punitive damages which, at least in Australia, is a rarely awarded remedy of financial damages to punish the defendant for its conduct - which Halep will argue arises as a result of the failure to disclose the presence of Roxadustat in its supplements.  

Having endured a living nightmare for the last 18 months, the 32-year-old Halep will now need to re-build her ranking from scratch.  Fortunately for the Romanian, given her status as a four-time grand slam champion and former world number one, she will undoubtedly benefit from a series of wildcards to gain direct entry into top-tier events such as the Miami Open thanks to tournament director James Blake.  

One player who spoke in support of Halep’s reduced sentence was the outspoken Brit Tara Moore who posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it was “great that Simona Halep is able to get back on her feet so quickly” but said it was a “shame it’s not the same for myself and other players who have been exonerated that aren’t so high on the totem pole”. 

Moore herself was recently cleared of a doping charge by the ITF Independent Tribunal which found she bore “no fault or negligence” for a positive test due to contaminated meat eaten while competing in Bogota, Columbia.  

Although vindicated, Moore still served a 19-month provisional suspension and lost her ranking (83 in doubles) and income as a result of the process. Surprisingly, the International Tennis Integrity Agency has since elected to appeal the decision to the CAS where it could ultimately find Moore guilty and impose an additional suspension.  

Moore also lamented the fact the WTA has no system in place to assist players who have been wrongfully charged with doping return to the tour.

In the midst of all this, the PTPA has called for reform saying the Halep decision “underscores the need for sensible reform to an unjust system.”

How the PTPA will be able to effect reform with the ITF, WTA, and ITIA remains to be seen although it shouldn’t be controversial to suggest that players cleared from a doping charge should not have to re-build their ranking having done nothing wrong. 

Ironically, while Moore was found to be entirely innocent of her charge, she is unlikely to get many, if any, handouts in the form of wildcards on her journey back to the WTA Tour.  Meanwhile, Halep, who ultimately bore some fault and was guilty of doping, will get plenty of freebies.


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