Tennis' Anti-Doping Body Comes Under Fire After Simona Halep Wins Appeal - UBITENNIS
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Tennis’ Anti-Doping Body Comes Under Fire After Simona Halep Wins Appeal

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SIMONA HALEP OF ROMANIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) is facing questions over the management of its system following the decision to reduce Simona Halep’s suspension by more than 75%. 

On Tuesday the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) slashed the doping ban implemented on the former world No.1 from four years to just nine months after she lodged an appeal. The two-time Grand Slam champion failed a doping test at the 2022 US Open after testing positive for the anti-anemia drug roxadustat. Then in May 2023, she was issued with a second charge from the ITIA concerning irregularities in her biological passport (ABP). An independent panel ruled that Halep ‘intentionally’ doped and issued her with a four-year ban.  

However, the CAS has dismissed the severity of the penalty. After a three-day hearing last month, they concluded that Halep didn’t intentionally take roxadustat based on the ‘balance of probabilities.’ It was accepted that she used a contaminated product without knowing but did bear some responsibility for her duty of care. As for her ABP, the CAS dismissed those charges against her. Halep has maintained her innocence throughout the entire procedure. 

“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.” The CAS outlined.
“CAS Panel determined that it was appropriate in the circumstances to consider the results of a private blood sample given by Ms. Halep on 9 September 2022 in the context of a surgery which occurred shortly thereafter. Those results, and Ms. Halep’s public statements that she did not intend to compete for the remainder of the 2022 calendar year, impacted the plausibility of the doping scenarios relied upon by the ITF Independent Tribunal.”

The outcome is a big blow to the ITIA with sport’s highest court essentially concluding that their penalties are too strict. It is not the first time such an incident has occurred. Britain’s Tara Moore was suspended from the sport for more than a year after testing positive for nandrolone metabolites and boldenone. Then towards the end of 2023, a panel concluded that the positive result was due to contaminated meat. 

“The ITIA just don’t really think about the human side of things. Things happen that are out of an athlete’s control. They just think we are all out to intentionally dope, when the true dopers most likely never get caught. incredibly destructive process, ruins people’s lives,” Moore wrote on X following news of Halep’s appeal. 

Richard Ings has previously served as the head of the ATP’s anti-doping program (2001-2005) and as CEO of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (2005-2010). In his view, lower-ranked players who don’t have the same resources as Halep would have had their careers ended if they were in a similar situation. 

“Simona has proven herself to be a fighter for justice. Who knows where that fight will end? But I feel she deserves compensation for being suspended for 18 months over a ban adjudicated to be 9 months long,” he commented. 

The Professional Tennis Player’s Association (PTPA) has called for there to be an overhaul of the system. The organisation was co-founded by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil with its goal being to campaign for players to have a greater say in the decision-making process. It is independent of the seven governing bodies that operate within tennis. 

“As indicated by our principles, the PTPA staunchly support all players’ due process, appellate rights, and access to a fair and logical anti-doping system. The Court of Arbitration for Sports decision to reduce Simona Halep’s ban from four years to nine months underscores the need for sensible reform to an unjust system that fails to protect these rights,” the PTPA said in a statement.

The ITIA was founded in 2021 by the ATP, ITF, WTA and Grand Slams to promote, encourage, enhance and safeguard the integrity of their professional tennis events worldwide. Karen Moorehouse, who is their current CEO, provided a brief response to the latest development concerning Halep. 

“An essential element of the anti-doping process is a player’s ability to appeal, and the ITIA respects both their right to do so, and the outcome,” she said.
“The ITIA awaits the full reasoned decision and will review it thoroughly in due course.”

Halep is now free to return to professional tennis. It is unclear as to what tournament she will decide to make her comeback at. She has been awarded 20,000 Swiss francs ($22,650) towards her legal fees from the ITIA who had asked for the CAS to expand her ban to six years.

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Rising Star Mirra Andreeva Teams Up With Wimbledon Champion Martinez

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Mirra Andreeva – Australian Open 2024 (foto: X @WTA)

Teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva has begun working with a former Grand Slam champion on a trial basis ahead of the French Open.

The 16-year-old has linked up with Conchita Martinez, who is overseeing her run at this week’s Rouen Open in France. Martinez peaked at a ranking high of No.2 during her career and won 33 WTA titles. After retiring from the sport, she has coached Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova. 

Andreeva’s latest partnership was formed with the help of her agent ‘two or three weeks ago.’ According to the WTA website, their practice week went well and now they are testing working together during a tournament. 

“So far, so good,” said Andreeva“I like it, I hope she likes it too. We will see how it will go and then we will decide about our next tournaments. I cannot say there are special aspects we are working on. But the first thing we worked on was my slice, because she was a good slicer. So she told me some tricks, and I’m trying to use it when I have time and a good possibility on court.”

Andreeva is currently ranked 43rd in the world and is the youngest player in the top 100. She has already reached the fourth round of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open but is yet to win a WTA title. So far this year the Russian’s best result was a quarter-final appearance at the Brisbane International. 

Martinez, who also reached the last 16 of a major at the age of 16, spoke about the teenager with Ubitennis during last year’s Wimbledon Championships. At the time she pointed out that consistency is key for the youngster.

“The most important thing is that she keeps practising and focusing on what she has to do to get better. It’s great what she is doing now but she has to maintain it,” she commented.

Andreeva kicked off her campaign in Rouen with a 6-1, 6-3, win over Nadia Podoroska. 

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Red-Hot Danielle Collins Ready To Take On Red Clay After Charleston Triumph

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Image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

Just how good is Danielle Collins?

Right now, she may be as good as anyone on the WTA Tour.

Just think about it. Who’s better?

Winning a seven-round near-major one week on hard courts, then putting together six straight victories the next week on green clay is fairly significant.

Collins didn’t go against a lame duck field in either tournament, especially at the Credit One Charleston Open where she defeated three of the best clay-courters on the tour in Ons Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina, as well as the likes of Sloane Stephens and Paula Badosa. She defeated a Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina, on hard courts in the Miami final.

ONLY TWO LOSING SETS IN 28

Collins lost only two of the 28 sets she played in Miami and Charleston.

Of course, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and third-ranked Coco Gauff are power players on any surface. But after those two, Collins looks capable of winning anything in sight. It would be interesting to see Collins take on either of those two on Europe’s red clay.

Collins now has played about as brilliantly in these two tournaments as Sabalenka, Gauff or top-ranked Iga Swiatek have played within the last year.

Collins has the type game no one wants to play against right now. She has jumped all the way to 15th in the world after her success at Miami and Charleston.

COLLINS DOMINANT IN FINAL

Against 2017 Charleston winner Kasatkina in Sunday’s final, Collins was dominant in a 6-2, 6-1 victory. The Russian didn’t have the game to match up with Collins’ power. Collins played to win, and wasted few opportunities.

No one on the WTA Tour attacks more aggressively than the 30-year-old Collins. Short balls end up being a “done deal” when Collins moves in on them and smashes forehands, backhands and lobs away. She nails high back-handed returns of lobs to the corners with the same type of precision she connects with high forehand put-aways inside the court. Few players can hit that type of backhand high volley with such power and precision.

 She also plays the baseline as aggressively as anywhere else, and her serve is solid enough to keep her out of early trouble. Few double-faults find her racket.

LOCKED INTO PROCESS

“I think one of my biggest areas of improvement over the course of the last few weeks has been my concentration and focus and really being locked into my process,” Collins said after winning Charleston.

“These women that I’m playing against, they’re the best in the world, and it’s — sometimes things go your way and then sometimes things don’t go your way, and you have to be open to that when those times do happen.

“I’m really looking forward to getting home (Bradenton, Fla.) and getting some time to spend where I don’t think about tennis, and then hopefully when Madrid comes around I am back in ‘Danimal’ mode. Then it’s back to reality. So it’s like spring break for me. I feel like a kid at spring break.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Danielle Collins Extends Winning Streak To 12 Matches

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image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

Danielle Collins just goes out and wins.

She wastes few shots and is a master of shot placements.

The court surface doesn’t seem to matter. She did it a week ago on hard courts to win the Miami Open. And she is doing it again at the Credit One Charleston Open on clay courts.

Collins has won 12 straight matches and is one win away from a coveted second straight title on the WTA Tour.

She’s unseeded, but keeps winning. She is the last American standing.

In Saturday’s Charleston semifinals, Collins scored a relatively easy 6-3, 6-3 win over third-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece.

KASATKINA STANDS IN COLLINS’ WAY

Just 2017 Charleston champion Daria Kasatkina is standing in the 30-year-old Collins’ way of a second straight tour title.

Oh, yes, Collins is playing her final year on the WTA Tour. She wants to go out a winner badly.

Kasatkina is the fourth seed, and she may already have played a key role in Collins’ drive to another title. Top seed Jessica Pegula appeared to be unbeatable in this Charleston Open until running  into Kasatkina in Saturday’s first semifinal and simply couldn’t close out the Russian when their  match was on the line.

PEGULA’S LOSS BIG SURPRISE

Pegula’s 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) loss to Kasatkina was the biggest surprise of this tournament. Pegula had won the last 12 games of a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kasatkina in 2023 in Tokyo’s Pan Pacific Open.

Very tough match,” the ultra-conservative playing Kasatkina said about Saturday’s long match that ended in a third-set tiebreaker.
“Really happy with my win, with the way how I did it. And, yeah, really happy to be in the finals here again.”

Kasatkina has been impressed by Collins’ outstanding recent play.

“Danielle is, I think, playing the best tennis of her career right now. She’s fearless. When she feels her game, she’s one of the most dangerous players on tour, and she definitely feels it right now,” Kasatkina said.
“So, yeah, it’s going to be very tough battle. And it’s finals. I mean, it’s so nice. I’m so happy to be in the finals, and I think it’s going to be a good one. I think the atmosphere is going to be great because playing an American in the United States, it always brings some extra electricity on court. So, I’m really looking forward to it.”

COLLINS IMPRESSED BY KASATKINA’S PLAY

Collins also has respect for Kasatkina’s style of play.

“We’ve played so many matches against each other over the years and battles. She’s one of my favorite players to watch because she makes these matches so interesting,” Collins said about Kasatkina.

“The way that she plays and her tennis IQ, how creative she is on court is phenomenal. I think against Daria I have to be very flexible. She has just about every tool in her toolbox. She can hit big. She can hit with shape. She can hit slices. She can come into the net. She does everything very, very well. She serves and returns well. She mixes up her pace. She’s just solid all over. And so, it’s going to be a battle, and I have to be ready to play a long, tough match, if that’s what’s needed.

“I’ll have to kind of take a little bit more of a look statistically at some things and some different patterns, but I think the biggest thing is just fighting until the end and being adaptable out there.”

About her win over the usually solid Sakkari, Collins said, “I think my aggressive game style helped me. I had to stick with it. And she was throwing a lot at me and doing a lot of different things.
“So, I had to try to counter that and use my aggressive game style as much as I could.”

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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