London | Halep sues company over nutritional supplement

Simona Halep, the former World No 1 who is awaiting a verdict on her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland over the 4-year suspension imposed last September by an International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) tribunal, is suing the Canadian company that produced the nutritional supplement that she believes led to her doping sentence.

I really believe that the truth is going to come out and the day to be on court is going to be soon. Simona Halep

The 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion is seeking more than $10 million in damages from Quantum Nutrition, which operates as Schinoussa Superfoods, after testing positive at the 2022 US Open for Roxadustat, a drug used by people with anaemia.

Roxadustat is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substances list because it can increase haemoglobin and the production of red blood cells, which builds up endurance levels.

The 32-year old Romanian said she used Schinoussa supplements during the US Open, and that the Keto MCT she took had contained Roxadustat, which was not disclosed on the label.

The two-time Grand Slam champion maintains she has never used any banned substances, and that Quantum’s negligence and false claims that its supplement was legal has harmed her career and damaged her reputation.

Halep, who is also seeking punitive damages, has filed the case of Halep v Quantum Nutrition Inc et al, with the New York State Supreme Court, New York County.

Quantum, based in Scarborough, Ontario, has not commented, but its founder told a Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, in October that Halep was seeking a scapegoat, and his company was being made into ‘the fall guy’.

While agreeing that Halep had not known that the supplement might have contained Roxadustat, the ITIA tribunal said the contamination could not have accounted for how much of the drug was found in the urine sample taken on 29 August, 2022.

Halep has since also been found guilty of a further breach by the ITIA over irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), and has not played on the WTA Tour since her opening round loss to Daria Snigur in New York.

“I really believe that the truth is going to come out and the day to be on court is going to be soon,” Halep told reporters after the recent CAS hearing in Lausanne.

Patrick Mouratoglou, Simona Halep's former coach, admitted giving the Romanian the supplement which was later discovered to be contaminated with the banned substance Roxadustat

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

According to reports, Halep’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou provided the Romanian with the contaminated supplement.

Just days after last year’s US Open, the ITIA confirmed Halep’s 4-year doping ban, and Mouratoglou, who was working with her at the time of the failed doping test, publicly voiced his continued support for the former World No 1, admitting that his team had given her the supplement that had turned out to be contaminated with the banned substance.

Mouratoglou also added that his team was unaware of the supplement being contaminated with Roxadustat, and described the entire situation as ‘very unfair’ for Halep and everyone involved.

“I feel responsible for what happened because it’s my team, so me, basically me, who brought her this collagen,” Mouratoglou said in a video uploaded on his Instagram in November. “It opened my eyes to the fact that any athlete can become contaminated tomorrow because, apparently, this happens more and more.

“This is terrible because you are completely innocent, your reputation is impacted, hurt by the fact that your name has to do with doping, even though you didn’t do any doping. Your career is stopped for a period of time that is extremely long.

“It can affect your whole career, it affects your reputation for a very unfair reason because you have done nothing.

“So it opened my eyes that it can happen to anyone, and the companies that you decide to go with for supplements, you have to be sure at 100% that this cannot happen.”

After the revelation, in December, Halep announced that she was no longer working with the French coach.

Simona Halep spoke to reporters outside the court in Switzerland following the three-day CAS hearing

© Getty Images

Moments after the ITIA announced the 4-year doping ban, Halep confirmed she would appeal to CAS and, last week, she presented her case to the top sports court in Lausanne.

“I can’t tell you absolutely anything about what happened at the hearing, but I can say that this hearing gave me the chance to present my defence,” Halep said after leaving the court some 10 days ago. “I want to tell you that my confidence is intact regarding the truth.

“I’m very confident that the truth will come out, and it will be proven that I never intended to dope and I never did.”

That same day, the CAS also issued a statement: “The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing in the arbitration procedures CAS 2023/A/10025 Simona Halep v. International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) and CAS 2023/A/10227 International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) v. Simona Halep concluded at 3.30pm today with the final pleadings of the parties, as scheduled.

“The parties have been informed that the CAS Panel in charge of the matter will now deliberate and prepare the Arbitral Award containing its decision and grounds. No particular date was announced with respect to the notification of the final decision.”

For the 32-year-old, this seems to be the final chapter in her battle to clear her name and have her doping ban removed.

If she loses her appeal to the CAS, Halep’s 4-year doping will stand, and she will not be eligible to return to tennis until October 2026, when she will be 35, and she has already stated that, in that case, she would not be able to play to pro tennis again.

Romania's Maria Sara Popa claims the Mouratoglou Academy gives players substances during their junior years, when testing is rare, after they have signed an agreement of consent.


Meanwhile, Halep’s compatriots have been making allegations against the Mouratoglou Academy.

18-year-old Maria Sara Popa, who trained at the academy, recently came forward to claim that players who train there are given substances to consume during their junior years after signing a supposed agreement of consent.

In an interview with, Popa said that she had trained at the Frenchman’s academy when she was 12 years old, and noted that since junior players are relatively less supervised by the anti-doping agency, the hopefuls are supplied with substances until they are 17 years old, which is when the anti-doping test becomes more frequent.

“Players and parents must agree,” she said. “They are given a sheet and must sign to agree to take that substance. The first time I was scared, I really didn’t know what was happening.”

Controversial tennis legend, Ilie Nastase, reportedly has been claiming that Serena Williams probably had been taking the same substance as Halep under the direction of Mouratoglou and his staff.

“I think that they [Mouratoglou’s staff] also included Serena Williams and others,” Nastase said. “If they gave it to Simona, they certainly gave it to the other players with whom they worked. I think so, I don’t think it’s Simona Halep [who] is the first to receive this from Mouratoglou.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Nastase has made claims against Williams, alleging before that the American’s physique was the result of doping practices.

Meanwhile, Halep has to wait to learn her fate some 16 months after her test was taken.

Ilie Nastase, seen here with Simona Halep in Madrid in May 2017, claims the Mouratoglou Academy probably gave supplements to many other players too, including Serena Williams

© Julian Finney/Getty Images



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