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Simona Halep eager to return to tennis after doping ban reduced

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Simona Halep eager to return to tennis after doping ban reduced

New Delhi, March 6 (IANS) Former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep is eager to return to tennis with “renewed vigor and an invigorated spirit” after Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced her four-year ban to nine months.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) Independent Tribunal found Halep guilty of both Anti-doping Rule Violations (ADRV) and imposed a four-year period of ineligibility on her last September.

Now, the former world number one is free to return to the tour as soon as possible as she has already served the nine months of suspension.

“The CAS Panel has unanimously determined that the four-year period of ineligibility imposed by the ITF (International Tennis Federation) Independent Tribunal is to be reduced to a period of ineligibility of nine (9) months starting on 7 October 2022, which period expired on 6 July 2023,” CAS said in a statement on Tuesday.

After CAS ruling, Simona wrote on Instagram: “Today marks a pivotal moment, as the tribunal has rendered its verdict, affirming my stance and bringing clarity to this chapter…

“In the midst of this challenging journey, my unwavering belief in the integrity of the truth and in the principles of justice has been my beacon. Despite facing daunting accusations and formidable opposition, my spirit remained buoyant, anchored in my unwavering conviction of being a clean athlete.

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“This ordeal has been a testament to resilience, and the triumph of truth is a bittersweet vindication that, albeit delayed, is immensely gratifying… The overwhelming backing from so many Romanians has also fortified my resolve, enabling me to champion this cause to a rightful and honorable conclusion.

“Looking forward, I am eager to turn this page and rejoin the tour with renewed vigor and an invigorated spirit.”

Halep, a two-time Grand Slam champion, was provisionally suspended from competition on October 7, 2022, after it was announced that she tested positive for the banned substance roxadustat at the 2022 US Open — which she subsequently vehemently denied ingesting intentionally and attributed to a contaminated nutritional supplement.

The Romanian was later charged with an additional anti-doping rule violation due to irregular findings in her Athlete Biological Passport, which establishes an individual profile of an athlete’s blood from regular blood tests.

Halep, now 32, was found to have committed anti-doping rule violations by an Independent Tribunal, and handed a four-year ban on September 22, 2023.

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But she filed an appeal to the CAS — the independent, highest tribunal for global sport — and participated in a hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland last month. That body set aside the Independent Tribunal’s decision and partially upheld Halep’s appeal ruling that she bore “no significant fault or negligence” for her initial positive test, and she had established “on the balance of probabilities” that the supplement was contaminated.

On the passport charge, the CAS also ruled that it was “not comfortably satisfied” that a violation of the appropriate statute of the Tennis-Anti Doping Program (TADP) had occurred and dismissed the charge.

“Having carefully considered all the evidence put before it, the CAS Panel determined that Ms. Halep had established, on the balance of probabilities, that the Roxadustat entered her body through the consumption of a contaminated supplement which she had used in the days shortly before 29 August 2022 and that the Roxadustat, as detected in her sample, came from that contaminated product,” the CAS statement read.

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“As a result, the CAS Panel determined that Ms. Halep had also established, on the balance of probabilities, that her anti-doping rule violations were not intentional.

“Although the CAS Panel found that Ms. Halep did bear some level of fault or negligence for her violations, as she did not exercise sufficient care when using the Keto MCT supplement, it concluded that she bore no significant fault or negligence,” it added.

Reacting to the development, the WTA has commented: “The WTA respects the processes that are in place to protect the integrity of the sport and provide a clean and fair sporting environment. With this, the WTA fully supports the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and we welcome Simona’s immediate return to play.”

Halep has not competed since her first-round loss at the 2022 US Open.

–IANS

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