Five biggest doping suspensions in tennis – from Sharapova to Halep

The tennis world is still in shock after the news about Simona Helep suspension. The former world No. 1 has been banned for four years after a positive doping test after last year’s US Open. The Romanian has not played for almost a year and this may be the end of her career.

Sharapova and Halep
Photo by Icon Sports

Halep is not the first star player to test positive for doping in tennis history. There have been plenty of cases in the past and in the following lines, we will look back at the five biggest suspensions in tennis.

5. Richard Gasquet positive for cocaine

In 2009, Richard Gasquet tested positive for cocaine which was a huge scandal in the sports world. Cocaine traces were found in Gasquet’s urine sample at the Sony Ericsson Open, in Key Biscayne in March that year. He was one of the promising stars of French tennis and was forced to miss Roland Garros that year.

Gasquet was banned for a year but managed to clear his name convincing the independent anti-doping tribunal that he ingested cocaine with a kiss with a woman he met in a nightclub.

4. Marin Cilic sweet revenge

The former world No. 3, Marin Cilic was banned for nine months in 2013. The Croat tested positive for nikethamide, a stimulant, at a tournament in Munich the year before. Cilic was threatened to receive a longer ban but the ITF said it accepted his contention that he ingested the substance inadvertently in glucose tablets and was not trying to cheat.

Cilic served the suspension and won the US Open the following year, the only Grand Slam title in his career.

3. Simona Halep’s career may be over

Halep’s suspension is a big deal since she is a former No. 1 player. The Romanian won two Grand Slam titles and spent 64 weeks as world No. 1. She tested positive for roxadustat after last year’s US Open and was given a four-year ban. Halep has a right to appeal the decision and we will see if the ban will stay in force.

2. Martina Hingis rollercoaster

Martina Hingis was a real sensation as she became the youngest-ever Grand Slam champion and youngest-ever world No. 1.

In the period between 1997-1999, Hingis had a 67-7 record in major tournaments. 1997 was her most successful year as she reached the final of every major and won all but the French Open.

In 2003, the five-time Grand Slam champion was forced to retire at the age of 23 due to an injury but returned to action two years later. In 2007, news broke out that Hingis tested positive for Benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, and received a two-year ban.

After serving the penalty, Hingis returned as a doubles player and won 27 titles.

1. Maria Sharapova scandal

In 2016, Maria Sharapova was suspended for two years for testing positive for the banned substance meldonium. The independent three-person panel appointed by the ITF said that the five-time Grand Slam champion had no intention of cheating but she bore “sole responsibility” and “very significant fault” for the positive test.

This was a huge scandal given the status Sharapova had at the moment. She served 15 months and got back in April 2017 in Stuttgart. She won only one WTA tournament after her return and retired in 2020.

Sharapova is one of only 10 women to achieve the career Grand Slam. She won Wimbledon at the age of 17 and became the world at 18, becoming the first Russian woman to top the singles rankings.

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