Special Report | Why Halep's doping case is different from Sharapova's ban in 2016 going to CAS

Tennis News
Wednesday, 13 September 2023 at 07:01
Halep Wimbledon QF 1
Following Simona Halep's 4 year doping ban by The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), the most severe ban for a well-established player since Maria Sharapova, the Romanian tennis star released this short statement in the Romanian press. 
" I continue to train and do everything in my power to clear my image in the face of serious allegations. I intend to appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and pursue all legal avenues of appeal against the supplement company in question" signed Simona Halep, former WTA number 1.
Simona Halep's message will imply that the legal team of the top Romanian tennis player will move quickly forward with an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

3 things complicate matters for Simona Halep:

  • Appealing to CAS is Halep's last legal chance to see the doping ban lifted, or shortened. But with time running out for the Romanian, aged 32 years in 2 weeks time, her legal team must now make a case before CAS equivalent to an approximate 8000-pages file full of scientific and other evidence from both player and the ITIA.  It can be feared that the relative slowness of the legal procedures at ITIA will be repeatead at CAS. Between the initial ITIA provisional suspension of Simona Halep in October last year and yesterday's doping ban decision on September 12th, indeed almost 1 year passed. 
  • Halep was found guilty of the presence and use of roxadustat as evidenced in Halep’s urine sample collected on 29 August 2022 at the US Open .
    The problem is, there was on top of this breach, a second rule violation under Article 2 of the TADP.
  • Halep is found guilty of use of a prohibited substance or method during 2022, based on collection and analysis of 51 blood samples provided by the player as part of the ABP programme. In short, irregularities were considered proven in Halep’s Athlete Biological Passport (WADA-link provided).
Legal experts believe that the chances for Simona Halep defending her case successfully are slim. The time factor will play its role as it took CAS almost 2 years to investigate the case of Swedish top player Mikael Ymer and reach his verdict as late as August 2023. And there is a famous example from the past.. Sharapova.

Why the Simona Halep case is different from Maria Sharapova

The Court of Arbitration for Sport's most famous appeal in tennis was banning Maria Sharapova from playing tennis after failing a drug test from the Australian Open in 2016. The Russian tennis star tested positive on meldonium, but as it turned out, she could prove to CAS that she was taking the substance for years while WADA had it only banned for weeks, from January that same year. Sharapova's legal team had a strong case in explaining the Court that it all happened by Sharapova's unawareness of meldonium being put on the banned substance listso recently. Hence, Sharapova saw her ban reduced from 2 years to 15 months. Back then, it took the Court of Arbitration for Sport 8 months to reach that final decision. 
Simona Halep on the contrary is now found guilty in using a substance which was not recently banned. In fact, roxadustat has been banned for ages. The case will have to be made that Halep received products that were perhaps contaminated, or even (see full statement underneath), prove to the Court that the proceedings within ITIA itself were not conducted in a fair way for Simona Halep. Two experts allegedly changed their intitial opinions about her AB passport when they found out they were dealing with Halep specifically as the athlete involved!
Just like in 2016 during the infamous Maria Sharapova era, this ITIA decision of Halep's four-year doping ban is an extremely sad day for tennis as a whole. Both athletes have always been at their top showing great passion and professionalism for tennis throughout their careers. Since yesterday, one WTA tennis legend has joined Sharapova with that reputation tarnished.. Simona Halep.

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