Simona Halep's former coach speaks out amid doping scandal

Veteran coach Darren Cahill has launched an impassioned defence of his former charge Simona Halep, following news of her positive drug test. Pic: Getty
Veteran coach Darren Cahill has launched an impassioned defence of his former charge Simona Halep, following news of her positive drug test. Pic: Getty

Simona Halep's former coach Darren Cahill has launched a passionate defence of his former charge after insisting there is "no chance" she knowingly took a banned substance.

The tennis world was rocked by news over the weekend that Halep had tested positive for the blood-boosting drug Roxadustat at the US Open, with the former World No.1 provisionally suspended.

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Roxadustat has been linked to doping in the past, with the United States Anti-Doping Agency re-testing samples in 2016 after saying it had been tipped off about the anaemia drug's use by athletes.

The drug increases the production of red blood cells, helping endurance, and is in the same category of banned substances such as EPO.

It is the biggest doping case in tennis since Maria Sharapova's failed test for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

Halep has vowed to clear her name after branding the news as "the biggest shock of my life".

As tennis luminaries have come out in force to throw their weight behind the popular Halep's fight to clear her name, Cahill has led an impassioned defence, insisting her "integrity is faultless".

The veteran Aussie coach - who helped guide the Romanian to grand slam glory - said the 31-year-old is one of the most vigilant players he's ever worked with when it comes to drug testing in the sport.

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.

Pictured left to right, Simona Halep sitting with her former coach Darren Cahill.
Simona Halep's former coach Darren Cahill insists there is no way she knowingly took a banned substance. Pic: Getty

"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.

"I believe in her. I always have and can honestly say never more than right now on this particular issue.

"I stand with Simo."

Tennis world rallies behind Simona Halep

Halep's partnership with Cahill ended last year and she's been working with another star coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who also offered his support, saying: "I support you 100 percent in this fight Simona. All the way through."

Fellow Romanian Billie Jean King Cup players have jumped to her defence while Halep's former husband Toni Iuruc said in an interview: "I swear to you that this girl, my ex-wife, is obsessed with one thing - honour.

"You can take anything from Simona, if you took away her honour, her fairness, you kill her. She is no longer human.

"Simona would not have done such a thing even if you had cut off her hand to stop playing tennis."

Halep responded to news of her failed drugs test with disbelief, before vowing to clear her name.

Seen here, Simona Halep returning a ball during her first round match against Daria Snigur at the US Open in 2022.
Simona Halep returns a ball during her first round match against Daria Snigur at the US Open in 2022. Pic: Getty

"Today begins the hardest match of my life: a fight for the truth," she wrote on social media.

"Throughout my whole career, the idea of cheating never even crossed my mind once, as it is totally against all the values I have been educated with.

"Facing such an unfair situation, I feel completely confused and betrayed. I will fight until the end to prove that I never knowingly took any prohibited substance and I have faith that, sooner or later, the truth will come out.

"It's not about the titles or money. It's about honour, and the love story I have developed with the game of tennis over the last 25 years."

Halep was notified of her failed test on October 7 and requested her B sample be analysed, which also confirmed the finding of the A sample.

with AAP

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