WJohn Millman has come to the defence of banned former orld No.1 Simona Halep, after Spanish player Fernando Verdasco became the latest player to be caught up in a doping scandal. Verdasco has accepted a two-month ban after testing positive to a banned substance, however it was one for which he has held a medical exemption for in the past.
Verdasco earned the ban after his exemption, known as a Therapeutic Use Exemption, was found to have lapsed at the time of the positive sample. The International Tennis Integrity Agency, in announcing their verdict, said they did not believe Verdasco had intended to cheat at any time, but unfortunately had to apply the rules strictly to maintain the integrity of the system.
The announcement of Verdasco's ban, which was met with derision by long-time antagonist Nick Kyrgios, prompted fellow Aussie star Millman to ruminate on the role the TUEs were having on the sport. Millman suggested they had been well known as a method of 'legally doping', though he was careful to clarify that he did not believe Verdasco was such a case.
Millman referenced the ban issued to Halep earlier this year, after she returned positive A and B sampled for the banned substance Roxadustat, which is used to stimulate the production of red blood cells. He said he believed Halep had also not intentionally sought to subvert doping rules, given she could easily have obtained a TUE for the substance.
"In general I really don’t like TUE’s in professional sport. Opens up way too many loopholes to “legally dope” - it’s very unfortunate for those with legitimate need as is the probable case here," Millman wrote. "However it’s been long known that if you want to dope, get a TUE.
"To add to this, this is one of the reasons I think Simona Halep is innocent. If she really wanted to enhance her performance with a substance she could have just gone down a TUE path. I genuinely believe she is innocent and hope she returns to the courts soon!"
Simona Halep vows to clear her name in doping saga
Halep has vowed to clear her name after branding the news as "the biggest shock of my life". She has since had a wave of support in the wake of the tests coming to light in October.
The likes of her former coach, Australian mentor Darren Cahill, as well as current coach Patrick Mouratoglou, have both vehemently defended the 31-year-old's record. Cahill said Halep had been one of the most committed athletes he'd worked with in regards to their vigilance with that they put into their body.
Cahill, who guided Halep to world No.1 in 2017 and to her 2018 French Open triumph in a six-year alliance, wrote in a long Instagram post on Sunday: "Firstly, and most importantly, there is NO chance Simona knowingly or purposely took any substance on the banned list. None. Zero.
"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.' We both believe in the ITIA testing program and would often discuss the number of times she was tested, both at tournaments and randomly.
"She did it without complaint, with the reassurance of knowing other athletes were being tested just as frequently. Competing against clean athletes was important to her.
"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."
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