Simona Halep
Simona Halep is free to return to the tennis court after her four-year ban for doping was reduced by CAS. Toby Melville/Reuters

Tennis star, Simona Halep, has expressed her joy at being able to return to the sport after she had a four-year ban for doping cut to nine months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The Romanian faced two different charges from the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) after she was previously found to be doping intentionally.

Halep's doping ban was the first incident of its kind since former player and five-time Grand Slam winner, Maria Sharapova, was handed an initial two-year ban in 2016 for testing positive for meldonium.

Halep tested positive for the banned substance, roxadustat, after competing at the 2022 US Open. Her first-round exit to Daria Snigur at the tournament on 29th August 2022 was the last time she participated on the court competitively

The revelation of the positive drugs test meant the two-time Grand Slam winner was provisionally suspended from tennis in October 2022.

Halep was then accused of her second offence as she was found to have abnormalities in her athlete biological passport (ABP) in May 2023. This conclusion was found after the analysis of 51 separate samples of her blood by three experts.

Last September, her suspension was upheld, and an independent tribunal decided that she would not be able to play tennis again until October 2026. This initial ban would have meant she would only be able to return to the court at 35 years of age.

Halep was quick to announce her intention to appeal the ban and maintained her innocence throughout the saga.

She stressed that the roxadustat found in her system was not from intentional use and that the substance came into her body from contamination. Also, according to the Romanian, the abnormalities in her ABP were due to blood loss caused by a surgery and inactivity in training.

CAS' verdict on Tuesday found that whilst Halep was not completely blameless, she did not ingest roxadustat intentionally. The ABP charge was dismissed completely by CAS as the blood irregularities did not suggest to them that Halep had definitely violated doping regulations.

Halep's initial ban being reduced to nine months and getting backdated to her provisional suspension in October 2022 means that her punishment ended last July, and she can begin competing on the WTA Tour again.

After the announcement of the ban reduction, Halep spoke out on the verdict through a statement. She said: "I have maintained my belief that the truth will eventually come out and that a fair decision will be reached because I am and always have been a clean athlete."

The 32-year-old went on to say: "My faith in this process has been tested by the outrageous allegations that have been brought against me. But in the end, the truth prevailed, even if it took a lot longer than I would have liked. I cannot wait to return to the tour."

The ITIA will have to pay Halep just under £18,000 to cover her legal fees and expenses whilst Halep's results, rankings points and prize money accumulated from 29th August until 7th October 2022 stay disqualified.

The ITIA reacted to its ban being reduced by CAS, with CEO, Karen Moorhouse, commenting: "An essential element of the anti-doping process is a player's ability to appeal, and the ITIA respects both their right to do so, and the outcome."

As Halep has not played competitive tennis for nearly 18 months, it will likely take her some time to get back up to full speed and return to the form that saw her be the top ranked player in the world and win the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019.

The Romanian arrives back on the court at a time when women's tennis is dominated by top stars including Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina.