Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep is revealed to have tested positive for a banned substance at the US Open and has been handed a provisional suspension from tennis.
The 31-year-old lost in the first round to Ukrainian qualifier Daria Snigur at Flushing Meadows, and the International Tennis Integrity Agency made the bombshell announcement on Friday afternoon.
A statement from the ITIA confirmed that Halep had tested positive for Roxadustat, which stimulates production of haemoglobin and red blood cells, and she has been provisionally suspended.
"The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) has confirmed that Simona Halep, a 31-year-old Romanian tennis player, has been provisionally suspended under Article 7.12.1 of the 2022 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP)," the statement read.
"The ITIA sent the player a pre-charge notice of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation on 7 October 2022 under Article 2.1 of the Programme (presence of a Prohibited Substance in a Player's Sample) and/or Article 2.2 (Use of a Prohibited Substance without a valid TUE).
"Halep, who has a WTA ranking of nine, provided a sample whilst competing at the US Open in August 2022. The sample was split into A and B samples and the subsequent analysis found that the A sample contained FG-4592 (Roxadustat), which is a prohibited substance listed in the 2022 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
"Adverse Analytical Findings for non-specified substances carry a mandatory provisional suspension. The player exercised their right to request that the B sample was analysed, which confirmed the finding in the A sample.
"While provisionally suspended, the player is ineligible to compete in or attend any sanctioned tennis events organised by the governing bodies of the sport."
Halep reacted to the discovery in a social media statement, saying: "Today begins the hardest match of my life: a fight for the truth. I have been notified that I have tested positive for a banned substance called Roxadustat in an extremely low quantity, which came as the biggest shock of my life.
"Throughout my career, the idea of cheating has never even crossed my mind, 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 to 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 the money. It's about honor, and the love story I have developed with the game of tennis over the last 25 years."
Halep has won a total of 24 titles on the WTA Tour, including Grand Slam victories at the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon Championships, and her most recent honour came at the WTA 1000 Canadian Open back in August.
The Romanian has spent a total of 64 weeks as world number one and has not been in action since her first-round US Open elimination after undergoing nose surgery.