Simona Halep has been charged with a second anti-doping violation over “irregularities in her athlete biological passport”.
The former world number one and Wimbledon champion has been provisionally suspended since October last year after testing positive for the blood-boosting drug Roxadustat at the 2022 US Open.
Last month Halep criticised the delay in her case, but the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) said on Friday the Romanian had been charged with a “further and separate breach of the tennis anti-doping programme” after an independent assessment of her athlete biological passport.
Nicole Sapstead, senior director for anti-doping at the ITIA, said in a statement: “We understand this announcement adds complexity to an already high-profile situation.
“From the outset of this process – and indeed any other at the ITIA – we have remained committed to engaging with Ms Halep in an empathetic, efficient, and timely manner.
“We do, of course, appreciate there is a great deal of media interest in these cases.
“It would be inappropriate for us to comment on specifics until the conclusion of the process, but we will continue to engage with the Sport Resolutions independent tribunal and Ms Halep’s representatives as expeditiously as possible.”
The athlete biological passport programme collates various blood parameters over time in an effort to spot any inconsistencies in the data which could indicate a possible doping offence.
Halep, who won the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon the following year, has not played a match since losing in the opening round of the US Open last August.
Speaking for the first time since her suspension last month, Halep claimed analysis by experts pinpointed a contaminated supplement as the cause of the positive test.
Reacting to the latest news from the ITIA, which is responsible for testing in the sport, Halep said in an Instagram post: “Since October 7, when I got charged by the ITIA for a suspicion of doping, I have lived through the worst nightmare I have ever gone through in my life.
“Not only has my name been soiled in the worst possible way, but I am facing a constant determination from the ITIA for a reason that I cannot understand, to prove my guilt while I haven’t ever even thought of taking any illicit substance.
“I feel helpless facing such harassment and motivation on their behalf to proven guilty of something I never did. Once again, all my life I have been totally against any sort of cheating. It doesn’t align with my values.
“The only thing I hope for, at this point, is to have the possibility to finally access the independent and impartial judges in a tribunal, that will give me the chance to prove my innocence.
“I have full trust in justice and I look forward to finally being able to present my case at my hearing that is schedule at the end of May, after several delays by the ITIA.