Controversial tennis great Ilie Nastase has brought Serena Williams into the Simona Halep doping saga by suggesting the American legend could have taken the same banned substance.
Halep was given a four-year ban from the sport for “intentional” doping offences by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) in September.
The two-time major winner has denied having “knowingly or intentionally used any prohibited substance” and appeared before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to appeal the decision last week.
Prior to her ban, Halep had been provisionally suspended since October 2022 after she tested positive for the banned substance Roxadustat at the 2022 US Open.
The 32-year-old, who was subsequently charged with irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), has not played since her opening round defeat to Daria Snigur at the 2022 US Open.
Roxadustat is a substance legitimately used for the treatment of anaemia but is on the WADA Prohibited Substance list as it is considered a blood doping agent, which increases haemoglobin and the production of red blood cells.
Halep was coached by Patrick Mouratoglou from 2022 until her suspension and the Frenchman has accepted blame for providing a contaminated supplement for the Romanian.
“We brought her collagen from a company. This collagen happened to be contaminated. There was no way to know it. But I feel responsible for what happened because it’s my team—so me, basically—who brought her this collagen,” he said in a video on his Instagram account in November.
In an interview with orangesport.ro, Nastase made the assertion that other players who have worked with Mouratoglou, including Williams, would have also taken the same substance as his fellow Romanian.
“I think that they (Mouratoglou’s staff) also included Serena Williams and others. If they gave it to Simona, they certainly gave it to the other players with whom he worked,” the two-time Grand Slam champion said.
“I think so, I don’t think it’s Simona Halep [who] is the first to receive this from Mouratoglou.”
This is not the first time Nastase has made an unsubstantiated claim about 23-time major champion Williams with regards to doping.
In a 2017 interview with Digisport.ro where he discussed the doping scandal in Russian sport, Nastase said: “Russia’s image when it comes to sport suffered a lot because of doping, but it’s pretty clear in Serena’s case as well. Don’t you see how she looks like?
“No one controls the Americans when it comes to doping. If the truth came to light, all big tournaments would disappear, all sponsors would leave. You can’t even imagine.”
Williams, who called time on her glittering 27-year professional career in 2022, took an apparent swipe at her former rival Halep over her doping ban last year.
On the day Halep received the ban in September, Williams shared a post on her X / Twitter account that read: “8 is a better number.”
The 42-year-old provided no further context to her tweet, but many have interpreted it as a suggestion she feels she should have eight Wimbledon titles.
Williams, a seven-time winner at the All England Club, was convincingly beaten 6-2, 6-2 by Halep in the 2019 Wimbledon final.
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