Talk about a “break” point.
In the shadow of the upcoming French Open, former world No. 1 Simona Halep is having a public meltdown over her ongoing doping suspension — through a series of social media posts lamenting her “nightmare” and what she describes as “harassment” from tennis authorities.
Halep, the 31-year-old two-time major champion from Romania, was accused last week of a second doping offense by the International Tennis Integrity Agency for irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport — a way to help chart doping using a baseline reading of substances in an athlete’s body — that is “separate and in addition to” the ban she was handed last year after failing a drug test during the U.S. Open.
“Since October 7, when I got charged by the ITIA for a suspicion of doping, I have lived the worst nightmare I have ever gone through in my life,” Halep wrote in the first of a series of social media posts punctuated by the irregular bolding of every third or fourth phrase.
“I feel helpless facing such harassment and a motivation on their behalf to prove me guilty of something I never did.”
Halep has maintained her innocence of doping violations — “Now that we have clearly established that I have been the victim of a contamination,” she wrote — and appears focused publicly on the timing of her next hearing with the ITIA, saying she was “extremely shocked and disappointed” that the agency sought a postponement.
On Thursday, Halep wrote her hearing had been delayed “for a third time” — from the end of May until the following month.
“Once again, tonight, I am devastated,” she wrote.
“Now I know that I will have missed the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Not to mention that I will have lost all my points and my ranking.
“Not only are they killing my reputation, but also me as a professional player, and I don’t even talk about the consequences on my mental health.”
Halep was ranked as high as No. 6 in the world last year. She entered the U.S. Open in August as the No. 7 seed, and was defeated by Ukrainian qualifier Daria Snigur in the first round.
The ITIA said Halep tested positive in New York for Roxadustat, a drug on the banned substances list that stimulates the body to produce EPO, a hormone that helps with endurance.
Halep’s ranking now is down to No. 34 in the world.
“We understand that today’s announcement adds complexity to an already high-profile situation,” Nicole Sapstead, the ITIA’s senior director for anti-doping, said last week in a statement about Halep’s second alleged doping offense, according the Associated Press.
“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’s case is tennis’ most high-profile doping controversy since Maria Sharapova was banned in 2016. Sharapova ended up serving a 15-month suspension over her positive test for the drug meldonium.
The French Open starts Sunday in Paris, headlined by defending champion and world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.