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Tennis world reacts after Simona Halep cleared to resume career immediately

The court's decision means the Romanian is free to return to court and play in the Olympic Games.

Former World No.1 tennis star Simona Halep says she "cannot wait" to return to the court after seeing her four-year doping ban reduced to nine months by the sport's highest court. Halep's career has been on hold for more than a year after her positive doping test at the 2022 US Open, with the Romanian always protesting her innocence and now free to play after fighting to clear her name.

"In the midst of this challenging journey, my unwavering belief in the integrity of the truth and in the principles of justice has been my beacon," she wrote on Instagram. "Despite facing daunting accusations and formidable opposition, my spirit remained buoyant, anchored in my unwavering conviction of being a clean athlete."

Simona Halep is free to return to tennis after a CAS ruling on her four-year doping ban. Pic: Getty
Simona Halep is free to return to tennis after a CAS ruling on her four-year doping ban. Pic: Getty

Simona Halep relishing return to tennis court

With her nine-month ban already served, Halep is now free to return to the WTA Tour, following the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling. Three CAS judges ruled Halep had "on the balance of probabilities" showed her positive test for a banned blood-boosting substance was unintentional and caused by a contaminated supplement.

"I cannot wait to return to the tour," Halep said in a statement released by her lawyer, Howard Jacobs. The Romanian's legal representative also revealed she had filed a lawsuit against the supplement maker in question. Halep hailed her win in court after hitting out at the "scandalous accusations" against her and pointing to the "seemingly unlimited resources" of tennis authorities to prosecute her.

"This ordeal has been a testament to resilience, and the triumph of truth is a bittersweet vindication that, albeit delayed, is immensely gratifying," Halep added on Instagram. "I extend my heartfelt gratitude to my legal team, whose steadfast faith and exceptional dedication have been instrumental in navigating through these turbulent times. Equally, my sponsors, loyal fans, and some commendable competitors have been my pillars of strength, offering unwavering support and solidarity."

The initial four-year ban looked to have all but ended the professional career of the 32-year-old two-time major winner, who defeated Serena Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final, one year after winning the French Open. The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) which banned her last year asked CAS to impose an even longer sanction of up to six years.

Halep denied wrongdoing for the positive test and blamed contaminated nutritional supplements for the presence of the banned blood-booster roxadustat. The drug can help produce more of the natural hormone erythropoietin, or EPO, which has long been a doping product favoured by endurance athletes.

Simona Halep is seen here lifting the 2018 French Open trophy. Pic: Getty
Simona Halep is seen here lifting the 2018 French Open trophy. Pic: Getty

Tennis fans hail Simona Halep victory in court

The Romanian was provisionally suspended from playing during an investigation that was prolonged by detecting alleged irregularities in her biological passport, which can reveal abnormal blood values measured over several years. Halep has always maintained her innocence, with tennis fans taking to social media in droves to hail her eventual victory in court.

"Although the CAS panel found that Ms. Halep did bear some level of fault or negligence for her violations, as she did not exercise sufficient care when using the Keto MCT supplement, it concluded that she bore no significant fault or negligence," the court said. The case was heard by three of the court's most highly regarded judges. The chair of the panel, Annabelle Bennett of Australia, also oversaw the case brought by two-time Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya that later went to the European Court of Human Rights.

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It is unclear when exactly Halep will return to professional tennis, with the former World No.1's ranking dropping to 1138 when the 2023 US Open started. The Romanian has made it clear that competing in this year's Olympic Games in Paris - where she won her first grand slam singles title - remains the "dream".

"I know there are not big chances for this, but I'm dreaming of this because Paris is my dream city," Halep said. "It will be amazing to be back on court no matter what... because that's where I belong."

with agencies

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