Simona Halep’s former coach has jumped to her defense after the former world No. 1 tested positive for a banned substance at the US Open earlier this year.
According to the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), Halep tested positive for Roxadustat, which is a banned substance listed in the 2022 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
The two-time grand slam champion, who has been provisionally suspended, denied knowingly taking the banned substance and vowed to clear her name.
She has since been given a vote of confidence from Darren Cahill, her former coach whom she worked with for six years.
In a long post written on his Instagram account on Sunday, he said there was “no chance” Halep would have purposely taken a banned substance.
“She is an athlete that stressed about anything prescribed to her by a medical professional (which was rarely), or about any supplement that she used or considered,” he wrote, alongside a picture of the two.
“Simona wore out the words ‘please double check this, triple check this to make sure it’s legal, safe and permitted. If you are not sure, I’m not taking it.’”
Halep was informed of the violation on October 7 and exercised the right to request that the B sample be analyzed, which confirmed the finding in the A sample.
According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Roxadustat is a class of drug called HIF-stabilizing agents.
“Athletes can use these products to increase their red blood cell count, which is a very effective doping technique that increases the delivery of oxygen to working muscles to increase endurance performance,” said USADA on its website.
The 31-year-old will be ineligible to compete in or attend any tennis events organized by the governing bodies of the sport while suspended.
‘What you see is what you get’
“Simona’s integrity is faultless, she respects her peers, she loves the game and she always has her feet firmly planted on the ground as a humble, approachable champion,” Cahill added.
“I have sat proudly in awe of the person that she has matured into, watching the compassion she has shown others.
“I’m not talking about the stuff that the tennis world gets to see, I’m speaking about the kindness and care that very few are fortunate to experience. The kind of actions that are done for love and not for publicity.
“Honesty has always been her greatest strength and her biggest weakness. We would often laugh about the fact that she can’t act and can’t tell a little white lie.
“Ask her a question in a press conference and she will blurt out an honest answer. She wears her mood on her shoulder for the world to see, for good and for bad. That is Simo.
“What you see is what you get. She built an amazing career and legacy by doing things the hard way. The right way.”
Halep had almost retired in 2021 but said she had fallen back in love with tennis this year.
She was knocked out of the first round of this year’s US Open in August, losing in three sets to then world No. 124 Daria Snigur.
Halep won her first grand slam at the French Open in 2018 and won her second at Wimbledon in 2019.
When confirming the results of the doping test in a statement on social media, Halep said “today begins the hardest match of my life: a fight for the truth.”
According to the Guardian, her new coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, later reacted to the statement on his Instagram stories, writing: “I support you 100% in this fight Simona. All the way through.”