Simona Halep Will Appeal Four Year Ban After Doping Breach - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Will Appeal Four Year Ban After Doping Breach

Simona Halep will appeal her four year ban from tennis after breaching two doping violations.

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Simona Halep (@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Simona Halep has revealed that she will appeal a four year ban from tennis for two doping breaches.

The Romanian last played at last year’s US Open where she lost in the opening round to Daria Snigur.

Since then Halep has been awaiting for a verdict after being provisionally suspended.

Now today, it has been revealed that the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) have given the former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion a four year ban for two separate breaches of the Anti-Doping Programme (TADP).

The two charges are in relation to an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for prohibited substance roxadustat at the US Open last year and also irregularities in Halep’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).

During the findings the ITIA revealed that the evidence was clear from last year’s US Open and that they collected 51 blood samples from the player as part of the ABP programme.

The tribunal accepted Halep’s arguments against the charges but determined that the volume the player ingested was too much and that doping was the likely cause for irregularities in Halep’s passport.

Speaking about the lengthy process ITIA CEO Karen Moorhouse explained why the process took so long, “After a complex and rigorous hearing process, we welcome the independent tribunal’s decision,” Moorhouse said in a statement.

“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.”

Meanwhile Simona Halep has announced that she will appeal the ban as she details the struggles she has gone through since the announcement that she tested positive for doping, “Today, a tribunal under the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme announced a tentative decision in my case,” Halep said.

“The last year has been the hardest match of my life, and unfortunately my fight continues. I have devoted my life to the beautiful game of tennis. I take the rules that govern our sport very seriously and take pride in the fact I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance. I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban.

“In a 126-page report, the tribunal found that I committed both charges brought by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) – an in competition positive urine test for a prohibited substance and a breach of the Athlete Biological Passport Programme.

“My representatives and I presented the ITIA and the tribunal with compelling evidence in support of my defense, including multiple legitimate questions regarding the conclusions reached around my Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) testing. While I am grateful to finally have an outcome following numerous unfounded delays and a feeling of living in purgatory for over a year, I am both shocked and disappointed by their decision.

“I believe in a clean sport and in almost two decades as a professional tennis player, through hundreds of tournaments and two Grand Slam titles, I have taken 200 blood and urine tests to check for prohibited substances – all of which have been clean, until August 29, 2022. Ahead of the hard court season in 2022, upon recommendation from my trusted team and physiotherapist, I adjusted my nutritional supplements.

“None of the listed ingredients included any prohibited substances however we now know – and the tribunal agreed – one of them was contaminated with roxadustat. I was tested almost weekly after my initial positive test through early 2023, all of which came back negative.”

“Despite this evidence, the ITIA brought an ABP charge only after its expert group learned my identity, causing two out of three to suddenly change their opinion in favor of ITIA’s allegations. The ITIA relied solely on the opinions of these experts who looked only at my blood parameters – which I’ve maintained for more than 10 years in the same range.

“This group ignored the fact no prohibited substance has ever been found in my blood or urine samples with the sole exception of one August 29 positive test for roxadustat, which was present at an extremely low level and which, when considering my negative test three days prior, could only have been caused by accidental exposure to roxadustat.

“I am eternally grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from my family, friends, and tennis fans around the world. I am continuing to train and do everything in my power to clear my name of these false allegations and return to the court.

“I intend to appeal this decision to The Court of Arbitration for Sport and pursue all legal remedies against the supplement company in question.”

Until Halep’s appeal takes place the Romanian is suspended from the sport until the 6th of October 2026.

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Karolina Pliskova Finding Her Footing With The Help Of New Coach Krajan

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Karolina Pliskova (CZE) playing against Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Karolina Pliskova’s resurgence on the Tour comes at a time when she has formed a new partnership with a well-known coach. 

After her first round loss at the Australian Open to Elena Rybakina, the Czech won nine consecutive matches on the Tour. In Romania, she claimed her 17th WTA title at the Winners Open before reaching the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event in Doha. However, she was unable to play her semi-final clash against Iga Swiatek due to a lower back injury. During this period she has improved her ranking from 77th to 36th. 

Pliskova began the season without a coach at her side but is now working with Croatia’s Zeljko Krajan. A partnership she believes is showing promising signs already. 

“Personality-wise, I think he’s kind of similar to me,” Pliskova told WTA Insider. “Not really high or low. Relaxed and very like calm. 
“We didn’t really plan yet anything because now the schedule was difficult. I might be in qualifying in Indian Wells. Maybe I enter San Diego. So I don’t really know what’s gonna be. I’m just living day by day at the moment.” 

Krajan has worked with a series of players on both the WTA and ATP Tour’s. He guided Dinara Safina to three Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2010. He has also worked with Borna Coric, Laura Robson, Marcos Baghdatis, Jelena Jankovic and Dominika cibulkova.

Pliskova, who is a former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, has endured a roller-coaster journey on the Tour in recent months with mixed results. Last season she failed to win back-to-back matches at 11 consecutive tournaments. 

So how has she managed to regain her form on the Tour?

“Motivation was never really a problem for me,” Pliskova said. “If I go on the court no matter how bad or good I feel, I always want to win. I always want to compete. 
“But my game is based on confidence and I need to feel that. Even if I’m not playing well or winning many matches, I just need to find that confidence in that moment or in that game because it’s just so risky. My shots are so flat, so I go for mostly lines. If something is not going well or you start to doubt, then of course you miss a little bit. Everything is about this.”

Unseeded at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships, Pliskova beat China’s Zhang Shuai in the first round. She will next play Ashlyn Krueger in the second round on Tuesday.

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Elena Rybakina Eases Past Kasatkina To Win Abu Dhabi Open

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Elena Rybakina has captured her second title of the season after beating an erratic Daria Kasatkina in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi Open. 

The world No.5 stormed to a 6-1, 6-4, win over the Russian in just over an hour. It is the third time in Rybakina’s career that she has beaten Kasatkina on the Tour and she now leads their head-to-head 3-2. The triumph comes a month after she won the Brisbane International, which is also a WTA 500 event. 

Rybakina’s latest match saw her capitalise on her opponent’s costly mistakes. Kasatkina struggled with her serve throughout the majority of the final and only managed to hold twice in eight attempts. Opening the door for the former Wimbledon champion who hit 17 winners against 12 unforced errors en route to victory. 

“I want to thank the fans who came this week,” said the new champion. “It has been an amazing atmosphere, especially to see flags from Kazakhstan. It means a lot, thank you so much.”

A one-sided 25-minute opening set saw Rybakina claim four straight games to clinch an early lead. During to the opener, Kasatkina only managed to win 26% of her service points. It was the fourth time in the tournament that the Kazakh had won a set by conceding two or fewer games. 

Fortunately for world No.14 Kasatkina and the crowd, there was more of a battle in the second frame. Twice in a row Rybakina worked her way to a break advantage before losing it in the following game. Then at 4-4, she dealt the decisive blow by hitting a clean forehand winner to break yet against and this time had a chance to serve for the title. With the rain starting to fall, she converted her first championship point with the help of another error from across the net. 

The defeat for Kasatkina comes a day after she came through a marathon three-hour semi-final match before criticising the WTA over their tournament scheduling. She is currently set to play in the Qatar Open with her opening match taking place tomorrow. It is the sixth time in a row she has been beaten by a top-five player on the Tour. 

“Congratulations to Elena, you’ve had a great week,” she said.
“Thanks to my team who has always been next to me. I am really proud of the job we’ve done and how we are doing. Thanks for always believing in me.”

Rybakina also referred to the demanding calendar during the trophy presentation. 

“Tough week (for Kasatkina), especially the last matches. Tomorrow there is already a match in Doha but hopefully, we will both recover and do well there. Maybe also play (against each other) in the final there,” she said. 

Unlike Kasatkina, Rybakina has a first round bye in Doha. She has now won seven WTA trophies so far in her career. 

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Ons Jabeur Hoping For Better Fortunes In Doha Despite Injury Concerns

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

Ons Jabeur is optimistic that she will be ready in time to play at her next event in Doha after suffering an emotional exit from Dubai on Friday. 

The two-time Wimbledon finalist was in tears during her straight sets loss to Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals. Jabeur later revealed that her emotional reaction was linked to the reoccurrence of a knee injury in recent days which has troubled her in the past. She said the pain can differ at various tournaments but in Dubai, it was causing her significant discomfort. 

“I’m an open book, an emotional person. I like to show myself. One thing I have learned is to accept the emotion, and if I try to hide it, it will not make me feel good,” Jabeur told reporters in Doha at a pre-tournament press conference. 
“So it’s good to let it out and be done with it than to keep it inside and probably will make more problems for you later.”

Despite the setback, the world No.6 intends to play at the Doha Open which gets underway today. She will be the fourth seed in this year’s draw and will be playing in the event for the first time since 2022. Last year she was forced to skip the Middle East swing after having surgery to treat an enlarged nodule which was obstructing her airway and preventing oxygen from reaching her lungs. 

“I’m very happy to be back. I’m obviously happier than last year,” she said. “I’m glad to be united with my fans here, and hopefully it’s going be a great week for me.
“I have been struggling with the knee for a long time, and last week was very, very tough. Hopefully, I can recover in time and then play better here in Doha.”  

This time of the year has always meant a lot to the Tunisian, who has spoken on numerous occasions about her aim to inspire more players from her region to take up tennis. She is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, crack the top 10 in the WTA rankings and qualify for the season-ending Tour Finals. 

“It is very important to be here to connect with Arabic crowds. I feel so much love here in the region, and obviously, that’s one of the reasons I chose to play Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai, because I feel so good here.” She said.

Declaring she is ‘happy’ with her rhythm on the court, Jabeur will begin her campaign in Doha against either Lesia Tsurenko or Turkish wild card Zeynep Sonmez.

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