Tennis champ Simona Halep’s appeal of 4-year doping ban begins at CAS on Wednesday

FILE - Simona Halep, of Romania, will go to sport’s highest court Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 to challenge her four-year ban in a doping case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland says Halep plans to attend in person when the appeal opens for a closed-doors hearing. (Seth Wenig/AP)

GENEVA (AP) — Former top-ranked tennis player Simona Halep will go to sport’s highest court on Wednesday to challenge her four-year ban in a doping case.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said on Tuesday that Halep plans to attend in person when the appeal opens for a closed-doors hearing scheduled over three days.

The court said in a statement, “No indication can be given as to when the final arbitral award will be notified to the parties.”

Two-time Grand Slam champion Halep aims to overturn the ban imposed by the International Tennis Integrity Agency last September. It runs into October 2026 when the Romanian star will be 35.

Halep tested positive for roxadustat at the 2022 U.S. Open to begin a case that became more complex when investigators detected alleged irregularities in her biological passport, which aims to detect abnormal blood values measured over several years.

Roxadustat, according to the European Union’s medicines agency, stimulates the body to produce more of the natural hormone erythropoietin, or EPO. It has long been a doping product favoured by cyclists and distance runners.

Halep denies wrongdoing and blamed contaminated nutritional supplements.

“At the parties’ request, no further information will be given with respect to the identity of the participants,” the court said, referring to expert witnesses who will give evidence.

The highest profile doping case in tennis since Maria Sharapova tested positive for a newly banned heart medication at the 2016 Australia Open will involve some of sports’ top lawyers in court in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Halep engaged an American lawyer, Howard Jacobs, who often represents top athletes implicated in doping, and the three CAS judges are some of its most in-demand.

The court-appointed chair, Annabelle Bennett of Australia, also led the judging panel in the case brought by two-time Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya that later went to the European Court of Human Rights.

American judge Jeffrey Benz was in the CAS panel at the 2022 Beijing Olympics that let 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva continue to compete despite a pre-games positive test.

German law professor Ulrich Haas has advised the World Anti-Doping Agency and is one of the most nominated judges by parties coming to the CAS.

Halep became the world No. 1 in the WTA rankings in 2017. She won Wimbledon in 2019, beating 23-time major champion Serena Williams in the final, a year after winning the French Open.

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