“We’re condemning an innocent woman” – Professor Alvarez, who analysed Simona Halep’s hair

The expert who looked at a hair sample says Simona Halep is innocent of the charges for which she has been banned for four years

Simona Halep Simona Halep (Zuma/Panoramic)

My fight continues.” With these words, Simona Halep, sentenced on Tuesday to a four-year suspension for testing positive for roxadustat and irregularities in her biological passport, announced her determination to prove her innocence. In particular, she will appeal against the decision before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Since her provisional suspension in October 2022, the former world No 1 has been fighting to clear her name, and has been able to count on a powerful ally. Professor Jean-Claude Alvarez – director of the toxicology laboratory at the CHU de Garches and judicial expert for the French Supreme Court – was contacted by the Romanian for an analysis of her hair, and has proclaimed her innocence in L’Equipe.

“You’d think you were dreaming,” he told the newspaper. “Right now, we’re condemning an innocent woman. We’re making a mistake. Given the concentration she has in her hair, it’s not possible for her to be taking roxadustat effectively.”

He explained: “She (Simona Halep) came to the lab, I took a hair sample from her. She had a very low level, less than 0.5 picograms per milligram in her hair. So I went to sample the only patient who has a treatment (of roxadustat, three times a week for renal failure) with this molecule in France and I tested one of her hairs: she has concentrations of 50 picograms per milligram.”

Alvarez: It’s all nonsense

“The roxadustat level is 0.2 nanograms per milliliter (in urine) for Simona Halep,” he added “It doesn’t mean anything anymore. You may have them if you take food supplements. It’s all nonsense.”

During the interview, Prof Alvarez asserted that the source of the roxadustat found in Simona Halep’s analyses was her collagen supplement – “manufactured in China where roxadustat is hyper-common” – taken as a powder mixed with water. This treatment can be used to treat pain in tendons, ligaments and joints.

While refuting roxadustat doping, Prof Alvarez also dismissed accusations of irregularities in the player’s biological passport.

“Six months on, they’re saying that her September sample is ‘lightly doping’ (slightly positive), when that wasn’t the case six months before. It was when they knew she had taken roxadustat in her analyses that the experts changed their interpretation. I just can’t understand it.”

Whatever the outcome of the proceedings and the appeal to CAS, the case is likely to drag on for several more months. And, at the age of 31, as the clock begins to tick down on her career, Halep no longer really has time for a 12-round fight.

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