Former world No. 1 and two-time grand slam winner Simona Halep has accused the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) of double standards while dealing with the charge of irregularities it has levelled on her in connection with her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP). (More Tennis News)
The 31-year-old Romanian, winner of the French Open and Wimbledon singles titles, has been accused of a second doping offense by the ITIA for alleged discrepancies in her ABP. The latest ITIA charge announced on Friday last is "separate and in addition to" the provisional suspension Halep received last year after failing a drug test during the US Open, the ITIA said.
Halep alleged on Monday that while the ITIA was stating on one hand that it wanted to engage her in a timely manner, on the other, it was asking the tribunal to delay the hearing.
"While the ITIA via their representative Nicole Sapstead was publicly stating 3 days ago that the ITIA has remained committed to engaging Mrs Halep in an empathetic, efficient and timely manner, they were at the same time officially requesting the Tribunal to delay my hearing... for the third time," said Halep in a statement posted on social media late on Monday.
"The ITIA publicly states one thing while privately doing another, I have repeatedly asked for my hearing and the ITIA has repeatedly sought to delay it." The winner of 24 career titles added that she has a right to a quick hearing, and delaying it was against the norms.
"When is it going to stop? I ask the question once again. I am entitled to a quick hearing. Acting this way is contrary to my rights," added Halep, who defeated Serena Williams in straight sets in the 2019 Wimbledon final.
The ITIA had said the fresh charge was pressed "based on an assessment" of the tennis player's biological passport profile by team of experts. The ABP provides a baseline reading of substances in a player's body and is considered a way to help chart doping.
Sapstead, ITIA's senior director for anti-doping, had said in a statement on Friday last that, "We understand that today's (Friday) announcement adds complexity to an already high-profile situation. From the outset of this process -- and indeed any other at the ITIA -- we have remained committed to engaging with Ms. Halep in an empathetic, efficient, and timely manner." Halep had taken to social media following the accusation of a second doping offense, saying she has "lived the worst nightmare I have ever gone through in my life" since being initially charged by the ITIA.
Halep had added that her "name (had) been soiled in the worst possible way" and that the ITIA is determined "to prove my guilt while I haven't EVER even thought of taking any illicit substance".
Halep had added that three world renowned experts had studied her blood tests and had been extremely clear that "my blood is totally normal". She stated that she was a "victim of contamination".