Novak Djokovic’s player association is set to offer Simona Halep help after she sensationally failed a doping test for the blood-boosting drug Roxadustat.
Halep, a two-time grand slam champion, failed the test from a blood sample at the US Open with the former World No.1 provisionally suspended.
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.
The shock news for one of tennis’ favourite stars has rocked fans and is the biggest case in the sport since Maria Sharapova’s failed test for meldonium back in 2016.
Halep’s former coach Darren Cahill jumped to her support and said there was absolutely no way she willingly took a banned substance because of her due diligence.
And amid the fallout, the Djokovic-led Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) has also offered Halep support.
“The PTPA is committed to ensuring that Simona Halep, and every player, has a fair appeal and complete due process,” the statement read.
“We will fight for her rights and look to advocate for fairness and transparency for all players.”
The PTPA is a breakaway players association, which has divided the tennis world.
Djokovic helped start the group with the intention to better advocate for player rights.
However, the group’s formation received strong opposition by huge stars such as Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
Simona Halep releases statement after bombshell news
In her own statement, Halep said she vowed to clear her name after the horror news.
“Today begins the hardest match of my life: a fight for the truth,” she wrote.
“I have been notified that I have tested positive for a substance called Roxadustat in an extremely low quantity, which came as the biggest shock of my life.
“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, who suffered a shock loss to Daria Snigur in the first round of the US Open in September, decided to end her season to an end last month following nasal surgery.
She was notified of her failed test on October 7.
Halep requested her B sample be analysed, which confirmed the finding of the A sample.
Cahill spent six years as Halep’s coach, which brought with it a Roland Garros title, and fervently defended the 31-year-old Romanian.
“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,” he wrote.
“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.”
He finished with: “I stand with Simo.”
Tennis great, turned commentator, Rennae Stubbs also expressed her shock at the results.
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.”