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Alamy Stock Photo File photo dated 07-07-2022 of Simona Halep.
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'Competing against clean athletes was important to her' - Former coach defends Halep
Darren Cahill has issued a strong statement in the tennis star’s defence.

DARREN CAHILL a renowned coach who helped Simona Halep to Grand Slam glory, said on Monday there was “no chance, none, zero,” that the former world number one purposely took drugs.

The Romanian was provisionally suspended at the weekend for taking the banned substance roxadustat after she provided a sample at the US Open.

Halep insisted she would “fight until the end” to prove her innocence with the result “the biggest shock of my life”.

The 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion is the highest-profile player to fail a drugs test since Maria Sharapova in 2016.

Australian Cahill, who guided Halep to world number one in 2017 and her Roland Garros crown in a six-year alliance, leapt to her defence in a lengthy Instagram post.

“Firstly, and most importantly, there is NO chance Simona knowingly or purposely took any substance on the banned list. None. Zero,” he wrote.

“She is an athlete that stressed about anything prescribed to her by a medical professional (which was rarely), or about any supplement that she used or considered.

“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 said they both strongly believed in the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) testing programme and would often discuss the number of times she was tested.

“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. It’s important to everyone and while the system is not perfect, it works.”

He added that her integrity was “faultless”, adding: “I stand with Simo.”

“I have sat proudly in awe of the person that she has matured into, watching the compassion she has shown others,” he continued. “I’m not talking about the stuff that the tennis world gets to see, I’m speaking about the kindness and care that very few are fortunate to experience. The kind of actions that are done for love and not for publicity.

“Honesty has always been her greatest strength and her biggest weakness. We would often laugh about the fact that she can’t act and can’t tell a little white lie. Ask her a question in a press conference and she will blurt out an honest answer. She wears her mood on her shoulder for the world to see, for good and for bad. That is Simo. What you see is what you get. She built an amazing career and legacy by doing things the hard way. The right way.

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“Due process will now follow to reveal answers to many questions. As Simona said, the hardest match of her life starts now.

“I believe in her. I always have and can honestly say never more than right now on this particular issue.”

The ITIA, which oversees tennis’ anti-doping programme, said it had informed her on 7 October of her provisional suspension.

It said Halep had exercised her right to have her ‘B’ sample analysed, which confirmed the presence of roxadustat.

– © AFP 2022