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Simona Halep Suspended for a Positive Doping Test

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Simona Halep, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion and one in every of the largest stars in women’s tennis, received a provisional suspension on Friday after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug throughout the U.S. Open this summer.

Halep, a 31-year-old Romanian, is currently ranked ninth on the planet. A representative declined an interview request, but after Halep learned of the suspension on Friday, she wrote on Twitter that news of the drug violation was “the largest shock of my life.”

In an announcement, the International Tennis Integrity Agency, which oversees drug testing for the game, said Halep had tested positive for roxadustat, a drug commonly used for people affected by anemia, a condition resulting from a low level of red blood cells.

The organization said that after the drug was present in her initial sample, Halep requested a test on a second sample, which confirmed the presence of the drug in her system.

“While provisionally suspended, the player is ineligible to compete in or attend any sanctioned tennis events organized by the governing bodies of the game,” the organization said.

Roxadustat is on the list of banned substances since it artificially stimulates hemoglobin and red blood cell production, which is a method for players to achieve more endurance. The drug does this by getting the body to provide more of the hormone erythropoietin, commonly known as “EPO,” which plays a very important role in red blood cell production.

Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. More red blood cells may end up in increased endurance, which made EPO a very common performance-enhancing substance in skilled cycling for years.

Halep had never previously received a drug suspension. In her post on Twitter, she stated that “the thought of cheating never crossed my mind once” and that it went against her values. “I’ll fight to the top to prove that I never knowingly took a prohibited substance,” Halep wrote.

Halep’s 2022 season was an up-and-down campaign. She was near quitting in February, she said, because she had lost her belief that she could compete with the most effective players on the planet. But as she began working with Patrick Mouratoglou, who previously trained Serena Williams, Halep regained her confidence.

She entered the French Open in good form but lost her first-round match after suffering what she later described as a panic attack during a three-set battle with Zheng Qinwen of China. At Wimbledon, Halep made it to the semifinals before losing to the eventual champion, Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, but on the U.S. Open the next month she lost in the primary round over again, this time to Daria Snigur of Ukraine.

In early September, Halep announced that she had nasal surgery to remove what had been a big blockage in her nose. The condition had made it difficult to breathe for years, she said on social media, but she had never pursued the surgery since it required three months away from playing tennis.

At the moment, she announced that her 2022 season was over and that she was looking forward to rejoining tennis in 2023. Those plans will now await the end result of any appeals she makes regarding the drug violation. As a primary time-offender, Halep very likely faces a suspension of as much as two years, which might begin roughly on the time of her most up-to-date competition.

Athletes in Halep’s position, as Maria Sharapova was when she was found to have taken an illegal heart medication, often claim that a physician prescribed the drug for a legitimate medical reason however the athlete didn’t realize that it was on the banned substances list. But antidoping regulations hold athletes answerable for anything that’s present in their bodies.

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