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Tennis: Romania's Halep asks independent court hearing after additional doping charge

FILE PHOTO: Tennis: US OPEN

(Reuters) - Former world number one Simona Halep has asked to be judged by an independent tribunal after been charged with a further and separate breach of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP), by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) on Friday.

The 31-year-old former Wimbledon and French Open champion, has been provisionally suspended since October 2022 after testing positive for banned blood-booster roxadustat at the U.S. Open last year.

Halep called on tennis's anti-doping body to allow her to clear her name, questioning the long delay in her doping hearing after being denied the right to be heard by an independent court.

"Not only has my name been soiled in the worst possible way, but I am facing a constant determination from the ITIA for a reason that I cannot understand, to prove my guilt while I haven't EVER even thought of taking any illicit substance," said the Romanian athlete in a statement on Twitter.

Halep, who has strongly denied knowingly taking the banned substance, said she has evidence to show that small amounts of the anaemia drug entered her system from a licensed supplement that was contaminated.

"I tried two times to have the opportunity to be judged by an Independent Tribunal but the ITIA has constantly found reasons to postpone.

"The only thing I hope for, at this point, is to have the possibility to finally access the independent and impartial judges in a Tribunal, that will give me the chance to prove my innocence," she added.

"I have full trust in justice and I look forward to finally being able to present my case at my hearing that is scheduled at the end of May, after several delays by the ITIA."

The additional charge relates to irregularities in Halep's Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), based on an assessment of her profile by an independent ABP Expert Panel.

"We understand that today's announcement adds complexity to an already high-profile situation... We have remained committed to engaging with Ms. Halep in an empathetic, efficient, and timely manner," said Senior Director for Anti-Doping at the ITIA, Nicole Sapstead, in a statement.

"It would be inappropriate for us to comment on specifics until the conclusion of the process, but we will continue to engage with the Sport Resolutions independent tribunal and Ms. Halep's representatives as expeditiously as possible."

(Reporting by Angelica Medina in Mexico City; Editing by Ken Ferris and Christian Radnedge)