Simona Halep hung out to dry with ‘bullsh*t’ doping ban, believes expert involved in case

Ewan West
Simona Halep reacts
Simona Halep beaten in Romania

An expert involved in Simona Halep’s doping case has declared “we are experiencing a real scandal” after the two-time major champion was banned for violations of anti-doping regulations.

Jean-Claude Alvarez has claimed that “it is not possible” that Halep took the banned substance roxadustat and warned “we are in the process of condemning an innocent person.”

Alvarez is the director of the toxicology laboratory at Garches University Hospital in France and has been involved in the case since being contacted by Halep.

Halep had been provisionally suspended since last October having tested positive for the banned substance Roxadustat at the 2022 US Open. The 31-year-old was subsequently charged with irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP).

The ITIA confirmed on Tuesday that both charges had been upheld, with an independent tribunal suspending the Romanian for four years for breaches of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP). The tribunal, established by Sport Resolutions, met on 28 and 29 June 2023 in London, and heard from expert scientific witnesses on behalf of Halep and the ITIA, with Halep also giving evidence directly to the panel as part of proceedings.

Roxadustat is a substance legitimately used for the treatment of anaemia but is on the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) Prohibited Substance list as it is considered a blood doping agent, which increases haemoglobin and the production of red blood cells.

Speaking in an interview with L’Equipe, Alvarez expressed his disbelief at the decision to suspend Halep and explained why he thinks she is innocent.

“We think we’re dreaming. Here, we are in the process of condemning an innocent person. The concentration in her hair, it is not possible that she takes roxadustat effectively,” said Alvaraz.

“Roxadustat is a molecule that almost does not exist in Europe, it does not exist in the United States and it is contaminated twice according to the ITIA. The roxadustat level is 0.2 nanograms per millilitre (in urine) for Simona Halep. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. You may have them if you take dietary supplements. It is bullsh*t.

“We have identified the source. It’s collagen (powder to mix with water for physical pain), and there is roxadustat in it. Its collagen is made with ingredients that come from China. In China, roxadustat is very common. The source of the contamination is very clear.

“There is a patient treated in France with roxadustat, I took a hair sample from this lady. I have over 100 times more concentration in this lady’s hair than Simona’s. We are experiencing a real scandal from WADA.”

The former world No 1 quickly announced in a statement on Tuesday that she would appeal the ban: “Today, a tribunal under the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme announced a tentative decision in my case.

“The last year has been the hardest match of my life, and unfortunately my fight continues. I have devoted my life to the beautiful game of tennis.

“I take the rules that govern our sport very seriously and take pride in the fact I have never knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance. I refused to accept their decision of a four-year ban.”

The Romanian has not played since her opening round defeat to Daria Snigur at last year’s US Open.

READ MORE: Grand Slam winner shares support for Simona Halep and slams her doping ban