Simona Halep has criticised the ITIA for the handling of her case ©Getty Images

Former world number one Simona Halep, who remains suspended over a positive drugs test, been charged with a second anti-doping violation by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA).

The ITIA has announced that "irregularities" were found in the Romanian star’s athlete biological passport, which monitors blood records over a period of time to check for variations that indicate doping.

Halep, a two-time Grand Slam winner, has been provisionally suspended since last October after testing for banned substance roxadustat at the US Open.

Roxadustat is a hypoxia-inducible factor activating agent that can increase the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity, and it is therefore banned for its endurance-boosting capabilities.

The suspension issued by the ITIA forced Halep to miss the opening Grand Slam tournament of the year at the Australian Open.

The 31-year-old, a winner at the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon in 2019, has continually denied any intentional wrongdoing and issued a statement yesterday criticising the ITIA for the handling of the case.

"I have lived the worst nightmare I have ever gone through in my life," Halep wrote in a post on social media.

"Not only has my name been soiled in the worst possible way, but 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 tried two times to have the opportunity to be judged by an Independent Tribunal and the ITIA has constantly found reasons to postpone."

Halep claimed that she was a "victim of a contamination", insisting that "three world renowned expects" had found that her was blood was "totally normal" following tests.

"I feel helpless facing such harassment and a motivation on their behalf to prove me guilty of something I never did," added Halep.

"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 scheduled at the end of May, after several delays by the ITIA."

Patrick Mouratoglou, who coached Simona Halep at the 2022 US Open where she tested positive, has defended the Romanian tennis star ©Getty Images
Patrick Mouratoglou, who coached Simona Halep at the 2022 US Open where she tested positive, has defended the Romanian tennis star ©Getty Images

Several leading figures within the sport have also leapt to Halep’s defence, including her coach Patrick Mouratoglou who claimed "this situation is going way past the limits of the acceptable".

Patrick Ciorcilă, director of the Transylvania Open - a Women’s Tennis Association 250 tournament - also slammed the decision by the ITIA as a "joke".

The ITIA insisted that the second charge was based on an assessment of Halep’s athlete biological passport by an independent expert panel.

"We understand that today’s announcement adds complexity to an already high-profile situation," Nicole Sapstead, senior director for anti-doping at the ITIA, said.

"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."