Coria sues vitamin maker over suspension, lost endorsements

TRENTON, N.J. -- Guillermo Coria, once the No. 3-ranked tennis player in the world, is suing a New Jersey supplement manufacturer, claiming its steroid-contaminated vitamins led to a positive drug test and a suspension that cost him millions.

In a trial set to begin Monday in New Jersey Superior Court in New Brunswick, N.J., Coria will seek to clear his name and will ask a jury to award him in excess of $10 million for lost prize money and endorsements, his lawyers said.

"Guillermo was suspended at the time when he was rising to the top of the world in tennis ... when he was really most valuable," attorney Will Nystrom said Tuesday.

He said Coria was 19 when he was suspended in July 2001 after he had a positive urine test for steroids while playing at a tournament in Barcelona, Spain.

Nystrom said the only supplement Coria was taking then was a multivitamin made by Universal Nutrition of New Brunswick.

The Argentine player's family had the multivitamins tested by a lab, which found them to be contaminated with steroids. That led the governing authority for men's tennis, the Association of Tennis Professionals, to reduce his suspension from two years to the seven months that had already passed.

Coria then had to battle back in the rankings.

"He grew up in a village in Argentina. He was named after [tennis great] Guillermo Vilas. His father was a tennis coach and he's been playing tennis all his life," Nystrom said.

Now 25, Coria worked his way back up in the sport and was ranked in the Top 10 in 2003, 2004 and 2005, his lawyer said. Injuries have since kept Coria out of the Top 100, and he didn't play in the just-concluded French Open.

Since the lawsuit was filed in 2003, Universal Nutrition has admitted in court that it made steroid-containing products and multivitamins on the same machines on the same day at its factory, Nystrom said.

A spokesman for Universal Nutrition did not immediately return calls seeking comment. The company also does business under the name Universal Protein Supplement Corp., according to Coria's lawyers.

As a result of his suspension, his lawyer said Coria lost bonuses he could have earned based on his ranking and tournament performances under endorsement contracts he had with Prince, a maker of tennis rackets, and adidas, the sneaker and apparel manufacturer.

Nystrom said Coria also missed out on endorsements from companies outside the sports world, including ones that pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to have tennis players wear patches with corporate logos on their shirts.

Coria, who is from Venado Tuerto, about 200 miles west of Buenos Aires, plans to attend the trial with his wife and parents. It should last about 10 days.