'Bulls**t' - Expert Involved In Simona Halep's Anti-Doping Case Blasts Four-Year Ban - UBITENNIS
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‘Bulls**t’ – Expert Involved In Simona Halep’s Anti-Doping Case Blasts Four-Year Ban




A figure in Simona Halep’s doping investigation claims that he has clear evidence that she has been a victim of contamination and has blasted the decision to ban her for four years. 


On Tuesday the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) published its decision following a lengthy investigation that has included roughly 8000 pages of scientific and other evidence from both the player and ITIA. Halep tested positive for roxadustat during the 2022 US Open. An anti-anemia drug that is used to stimulate the production of red blood cells. She was also later found to have irregularities in her biological passport based on an analysis of 51 blood samples. Subsequently, an independent panel has found her guilty of violating two anti-doping rules which have resulted in her being suspended from the sport until 2026.

Jean-Claude Alvarez has been involved in Halep’s anti-doping case after being contacted by the former world No.1. He currently works as the director of the toxicology laboratory at Garches University Hospital in France and stands by the tennis player’s claim that she is innocent.

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

According to Alvarez, Halep got contaminated with roxadustat after using a collagen powder that contained the substance. He says the ingredients in that product came from China where the substance is ‘very common.’ It is not known if Halep or a member of her team made efforts to check that the powder was fine to use under anti-doping regulations. 

“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 bullshit,” he argues.
“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 (World Anti-Doping Agency).”

As for the procedure used to detect the powder, Halep provided a list of everything she had taken leading to the check-up. The powder tested positive for the substance 14 out of 14 times. However, when this was sent to a WADA laboratory nothing was found. No contamination was also discovered by Pascal Kintz who works at a toxicology laboratory in Strasbourg. However, Kintz later found traces of roxdustat in the powder after using Alvarez’s method instead of his own. It is unclear as to how these methods are different. 

In their findings, the ITIA accepted Halep’s explanation that she had taken a contaminated product but concluded that the volume she ingested couldn’t have resulted in the concentration of roxadustat found in her positive sample. Alvarez counters this argument by claiming he did his own experiment on a colleague that used the powder for six days. During this time, seven out of 35 samples taken from this person produced a positive test. 

Alvarez was one of four ‘expert witnesses’ Halep used in her case. The other three were Professor Coquerel, Professor Kintz and Paul Scott. 

Halep is set to launch an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against her ban. 

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Aryna Sabalenka Survives Scare, Wades Into Ball Quality Debate At China Open



Aryna Sabalenka overcame a stern test against Britain’s Katie Boulter to book her place in the third round of the China Open on Tuesday.


The top seed was forced to dig deep during her 7-5, 7-6(2), win over the world No.56. In both sets Boulter had a chance to serve them out but was denied by a determined Sabalenka who battled back. The Belrussian faced 12 break points during the match but she managed to save 10 of them.

“She’s a great player. I’m just super happy to win this match,” Sabalenka said afterward.
“In the key moments, I played a little bit better than her. I think it was all about the last games in each set.’
“I’m super happy that I didn’t give her easily those sets. I kept fighting, keep trying. That’s what made the difference.”

Sabalenka now leads Boulter 3-0 in their head-to-head with their latest meeting being the first time the Brit has played a current world No.1 player. She is bidding to become the fourth player to win both the Australian Open and Beijing titles within the same season and the first to do so since Naomi Osaka in 2019. Two out of her five WTA 1000 titles were won on Chinese soil.

“The courts are really great. I would say it suits my game really well. The atmosphere is amazing,” Sabalenka commented.
“It’s been a while, like four years (since she last played in China). I’m a completely different person and a completely different player right now. I know better how to use these courts, how to play on these courts.”

A prominent subject being discussed during this tournament has been regarding the quality of the tennis balls which Daniil Medvedev describes as like a ‘grapefruit’ after being used for a couple of games. He has also voiced concerns that using different balls at various tournaments is contributing towards a rise in player injuries with others on the Tour expressing similar comments.

Sabalenka has backed up Medvedev’s remarks about the ball changing after two games and admits she would prefer different ones being used.

“I cannot imagine what’s happening with the men’s game because the rallies are longer and the ball’s getting even bigger,” she said.
“Today after a couple of games, the balls were getting heavier and bigger. Because of that, the game was getting slower. It’s tough.;’
“It’s tough conditions. I don’t know, but it seems to work good for me, so I’m like, It’s okay. (But) I would prefer probably different balls for this surface.”

Sabalenka will play Italy’s Jasmine Paolini in her next match.

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‘My Brain Works Different’ – Coco Gauff Talks Positives From Online Criticism After China Open Win



Image via https://twitter.com/ChinaOpen/

Many of the world’s top players have fallen victim to online criticism but Coco Gauff sees it as a source of inspiration. 


The 19-year-old American recently claimed the biggest title of her career at the US Open where she beat Aryna Sabalenka in the final. A milestone for the youngster who has spent a lot of her young career in the limelight. Immediately after that win, she said on the court ‘to those who thought they were putting water on my fire, you’re really adding gas.’ This a comment that has resonated with other athletes, including basketball Breanna Stewart who referenced the remark in her WNBA MVP acceptance speech. 

“It was really cool to be quoted by such an incredible athlete as her, especially someone that’s older to me, way more established in her field or her sport than I am, draw inspiration from me,” Gauff commented on Stewart during her Monday press conference in Beijing. 

Gauff is back in action this week at the China Open where she is the third seed. In her opening match, she beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-5, 6-3, to record her 13th tour win in a row. Overall, she has won 16 matches at WTA 1000 events so far this season. 

Looking to end her season with more silverware, the world No.3 says her approach of using negative comments to her advantage is an approach she doesn’t recommend for every player. 

“I feel like my brain just works differently,” she explained. “I still have the filters on my Instagram. I don’t see anything. I see the comments.’
“I used to not be on Twitter at all. I’m still really not on Twitter much. But sometimes you get caught up in the scroll. The way the page is, the accounts that you interact with, you see yourself. I interact with tennis a lot obviously, so those tweets come up. Obviously I see about myself, positive and negative.’
“I wouldn’t say negativity is something that’s welcome. It’s more something that I draw inspiration from. I wouldn’t recommend everybody to do that.”
“My agent and my team advise not to comment back, so I use my racquet to do it (smiling).”

Already qualified for the WTA Finals after this year, Gauff isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon. Recently she accepted a wildcard to play at the Zhengzhou Open which will take place straight after Beijing. 

I wanted to have a second tournament in case this one doesn’t go as well,” she said. “I wanted matches before the WTA Finals because from the US Open to the Finals is a long stint. If you lose early here (in Beijing), the Finals is a long stint.”
“I wanted to play at least two tournaments down here.”

Gauff will next play Petra Martić on Tuesday. 

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Daniil Medvedev Reaches China Open Semis Despite Frustration With ‘Very Slow’ Balls



This week’s China Open is taking place on a hard court but Daniil Medvedev says he feels like he is playing on clay due to the types of balls being used.


The former US Open champion continued his quest for a 21st ATP title in Beijing on Monday with a roller-coaster 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, win over Ugo Humbert in the quarter-finals. Medvedev at times struggled to hold serve with him getting broken twice in the first set and then once in each of the next two sets. It was a somewhat unusual match with the world No.3 later claiming that he would not have won if it was played on ‘any other normal hard court with normal balls.’

“With these balls, it’s kind of like playing on clay,’ Medvedev told reporters after beating Humbert. “The only big difference is the bounce, which is not like on clay, so it’s still different, but it’s very slow.’
“I lost two times my serve in the first set. I won it. I lost my serve in the third, I won it 6-1. Any other normal hard court with normal balls, no chance I win a match like this. Also, no chance I lose so much of my serve. To make an ace is tough.”

It is not the first time that Medvedev has criticized the quality of balls being used and the constant changes between tournaments. He previously described the balls in Beijing as turning into a ‘grapefruit’ after they have been used for a couple of shots and says it can be impossible to hit a winner. Furthermore, he is among a series of players to raise concerns that these changes are resulting in a rise in player injuries.

Medvedev is a formidable force on hardcourt’s with him winning 41 ATP Tour matches so far this season on the surface which is more than any other player. After beating Humbert, he has now reached the semi-final or better at every current hardcourt event that is classed as an ATP 500 or above.

Despite his success and trophy tally of 20, he has yet to win the same tournament twice.

“It’s a fun story,” he commented on his record. “This week I’m here in Beijing, so I hope to make it 21 in 21 different cities. It’s going to be pretty special because I’m not sure anyone has done something like this before.”
“At the same time I hope to, in Shanghai, maybe break this story, try to win a second title in the same city, same tournament.”

Medvedev will next take on Alexander Zverev who defeated Nicolas Jarry 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-3. It will be their 17th Tour meeting and their fifth this season. Medvedev currently leads their head-to-head 9-7.

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