Darren Cahill, the Australian coach who steered Simona Halep to grand slam glory, says there is no way his former charge knowingly took banned drugs.
As tennis luminaries have come out in force to throw their weight behind the popular Halep’s fight to clear her name, Cahill has led an impassioned defence, insisting her “integrity is faultless” and concluding, “I stand with Simo”.
The 31-year-old tested positive for the banned substance Roxadustat at the US Open, in what is the most high profile doping case in women’s tennis since Maria Sharapova’s failed test for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
The two-time grand slam champion vowed to clear her name, branding the news as “the biggest shock of my life”.
And Cahill, who guided Halep to world No 1 in 2017 and to her 2018 French Open triumph in a six-year alliance, wrote in a long Instagram post on Sunday: “Firstly, and most importantly, there is NO chance Simona knowingly or purposely took any substance on the banned list. None. Zero.
“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’.
“We both believe in the ITIA testing program and would often discuss the number of times she was tested, both at tournaments and randomly.
“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.
“Simona’s integrity is faultless, she respects her peers, she loves the game and she always has her feet firmly planted on the ground as a humble, approachable champion.
“I believe in her. I always have and can honestly say never more than right now on this particular issue. I stand with Simo.”
Halep’s partnership with Cahill ended last year and she’s been working with another star coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who also offered his support, saying: “I support you 100% in this fight Simona. All the way through.”
Fellow Romanian Billie Jean King Cup players have jumped to her defence while Halep’s former husband Toni Iuruc said in an interview: “I swear to you that this girl, my ex-wife, is obsessed with one thing – honour.
“You can take anything from Simona, if you took away her honour, her fairness, you kill her. She is no longer human. Simona would not have done such a thing even if you had cut off her hand to stop playing tennis.”