1 of 5 | Romanian Simona Halep is suspended from tennis until 2026. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Tennis star Simona Halep is suspended for four years for anti-doping violations, the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) announced Tuesday. Halep plans to appeal the suspension.
"I have devoted my life to the beautiful game of tennis," Halep wrote on social media. "I take the rules that govern our sport very seriously and take pride in the fact I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance.
"I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban."
Halep, the 2018 French Open and Wimbledon 2019 champion, said she was shocked by the decision. The two-time Grand Slam champion announced last September that she would not return to the sport until 2024, citing mental exhaustion and nose surgery.
The ITIA announced a provisional suspension for Halep in October after she tested positive for the banned substance Roxadustat, a medication used to treat anemia. The agency charged Halep with two separate breaches of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program, including when it found the presence of the drug in the tennis star at the 2022 U.S. Open. She lost in the first round of the Grand Slam.
An independent tribunal, which issued the ban, met with expert witnesses and received evidence from Halep as part of proceedings on the matter in June in London.
Halep's suspension is retroactive to Oct. 7 and runs until Oct. 6, 2026.
"The ITIA has followed the proper processes as we would with any other individual -- in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code -- fulfilling our purpose and responsibility to uphold the principle of fair competition, on behalf of the sport," ITIA CEO Karen Moorehouse said in a news release. "The panel recognized that appropriate procedure had been followed within the written decision.
"We do understand the significant public interest in these cases and remain committed to being as transparent as possible and the full decision will be published in due course."
Retired tennis star Serena Williams, who lost to Halep in the Wimbledon 2019 women's singles final, tweeted "8 is a better number," just after Halep's suspension was announced.
Williams totaled seven Wimbledon singles titles.
Halep, 31, hasn't competed since she lost to Ukrainian qualifier Daria Snigur on Aug. 29, 2022, at the U.S. Open. The former world No. 1 from Romania was the No. 10 player in the WTA rankings at the end of the 2022 season. Halep is not listed in the current WTA singles rankings.