World champion Madisyn Cox has filed a lawsuit against an affiliate of the Dallas-based Cooper Clinic for “producing and selling” the tainted multivitamin that led to her suspension by FINA last year, her lawyer announced Tuesday.
“At what might have been the height of her career, Madisyn paid a heavy price because she trusted a company she shouldn’t have,” said her attorney, Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston. “The shock, pain and emotional trauma she has bravely faced are almost incalculable, and we will be doing everything possible to gain justice for Madisyn and her family. We also hope to force this company and this industry to do a better job in assuring the purity of their products and the proper labeling of each product’s ingredients.”
The case, Madisyn Cox v. Cooper Concepts Inc, et al, No. D-1-GN-19-002032, is filed in the 250th District Court in Travis County.
The suspension, originally set for two years but later reduced, began in March 2018 and was lifted in September, forcing Cox to sit out a number of major meets, including last summer’s 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships, which served as the qualifier for this year’s upcoming 2019 FINA World Championships.
Cox had to return grants and prize money from the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming. Additionally, she posted on Instagram Tuesday that she has been denied entry into the International Swimming League – created in part to help professional swimming become a financially viable option for athletes – which has a strict ban on anyone who has served a doping suspension.
Cox’s routine blood and urine tests in February 2018 found trace amounts of Trimetazidine in her system. The substance is used as a heart medication outside of the U.S. but is not approved for sale in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration – it also triggered Sun Yang‘s 2014 suspension. In a statement to SwimSwam at the time, Cox said that the positive test was for an “unfathomably low” amount, and that she had “never heard of this substance prior to receiving the test results.” She also said she thought the trace amounts of Trimetazidine may have come from drinking tap water in Austin, Texas.
In August, the Court of Arbitration for Sport agreed to reduce Cox’s sentence as the substance was traced by the Salt Lake City WADA-accredited lab back to the Cooper Complete Elite Athletic multivitamin that Cox, 23, said she has been taking for seven years, and that she had listed on doping control forms. There had never been a recorded case of Trimetazidine supplement contamination in the United States, according to Cox, which is why she didn’t immediately have the supplement tested.
Cooper Complete was founded in 1997 by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, a pioneer of the benefits of aerobic exercise. Their product line “was developed by a team of physicians and scientists from leading universities alongside Dr. Cooper to address weaknesses found in many supplements,” according to their website.
Over the last few months of 2018, Cooper repeatedly told SwimSwam that its internal investigation was ongoing, but stopped selling the Elite Athletic multivitamin in September.
“Although her suspension was reduced when the source of the banned drug was identified, and Ms. Cox was cleared to resume competing in September 2018, she still faces significant reputational, financial and emotional consequences. Ms. Cox was forced to miss several major events and to return fees, grants and prizes from the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming, and was unable to pursue lucrative corporate sponsorships,” the firm wrote.
“In addition to that lost income, Ms. Cox and her family incurred considerable expense in hiring several medical and legal experts to seek the source of the banned substance and a complete revocation of her suspension.”
Cox swam at The University of Texas from 2013-2017. At Worlds in 2017, she won a bronze medal in the 200 IM and a gold medal as a member of the U.S.’s 800 free relay team. So far in 2019, she’s posted the seventh-fastest 200 IM in the world, and is the fastest American woman, just ahead of Melanie Margalis and Kathleen Baker.