After winning the bronze medal for the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games, Jaqueline Galloway began the long and arduous process of training for her next competitions.
But a bottle of supplements and a failed drug test sullied her reputation and dealt a swift kick to her taekwondo career, Galloway testified Monday in a Collin County courtroom. She sued H-E-B, which owns Central Market in Plano where she bought a bottle of magnesium, calcium and zinc multivitamins in February 2019. The trial began this week.
Galloway had taken the supplements for just over a week when she was given a random drug test. Her urine tested positive for ibutamoren, a substance on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances, and she was banned from competition.
Galloway testified the failed test meant she lost her credibility and her ability to compete. But, she said, it also took away her identity, and being publicly branded as a cheater destroyed everything she had worked to achieve. She is asking for more than $1 million in damages.
“I lost who I was as a person,” Galloway testified through tears. “This wasn’t something internal and kept out of the spotlight — it was broadcast not only in my community but to fellow athletes and kids who looked up to me and watched me compete.”
Galloway’s lawsuit accuses H-E-B and Nexgen Pharma, which manufactured the vitamins, of deceptive marketing and trade practices.
The bottle of multivitamins, she testified, mentioned nothing on the label about Nexgen being the manufacturer. Had the label mentioned Nexgen, Galloway said she would have done more research into the company before buying the vitamins.
The label also said the supplements were guaranteed “for potency and purity.” Galloway told jurors she took that to mean the product contained no other substances other than what was listed on the label.
Galloway’s attorney, David Townend, said in his opening statement that her suspension and being branded a cheater was the toughest battle she ever faced.
“She was engaged in fighting physical battles,” Townend said, “but this was something she couldn’t beat. This was something that, we contend, destroyed her Olympic spirit.”
But lawyers for H-E-B and Nexgen said the supermarket chain followed established protocols for retailers labeling products — and suggested the bottle may have been tampered with after Galloway opened it.
“Am I saying Ms. Galloway did it? I’m saying nothing of the sort,” H-E-B attorney Harold J. Lotz told the jury. But, he said, evidence presented during the trial will show that “other people have had access to this bottle.”
Galloway, now 26, described taekwondo as a family affair to the jury inside District Judge Tom Nowak’s courtroom. Her father, Gary Galloway, trained in the sport, and when Galloway decided to compete at age 7, he became her coach. She testified was born in Indiana and moved to Texas age age 2. Galloway went to high school in Wylie.
By age 14, Galloway was selected as an alternate for the 2012 Olympic taekwondo team in Mexico, where she holds a dual citizenship. She earned a spot on the American Olympic team four years later.
Galloway said she had taken hundreds of drug tests throughout her athletic career and had never knowingly taken a performance-enhancing substance.
“It’s my life,” she said. “I wouldn’t have done anything to risk that.”
In early 2019, she was recovering from an injury but still earning benefits from the U.S. Olympic Committee, including health insurance and a $2,500 monthly stipend. She testified she heard magnesium helped with jet lag and cramps, so she picked up a bottle during a shopping trip at Central Market.
Galloway said she stood in the aisle before buying the bottle, comparing the listed ingredients to a list of banned substances. She found none. She had been taking the supplements every day. She still took the supplements after submitting a sample of her urine.
But in late February, she received a letter notifying her that she failed the drug test, she testified. Galloway was immediately suspended from competition.
Galloway described her fear of disappointing her family — as well as other athletes and students who looked up to her. She said her self confidence was “shattered.” Galloway said she couldn’t sleep, was constantly crying and felt depressed — though she was never diagnosed because her Olympic health care plan had been revoked.
She was given the option to contest the finding and face a four-year suspension from competing, or accept the finding and receive a six-month suspension. Galloway said she did the only thing she thought could salvage her career and accepted the six-month suspension.
But the suspension still tanked Galloway’s athletic career and dashed her hopes of appearing in the 2020 Olympics, she testified. She hasn’t competed since late 2019.
During their opening statements, lawyers for both H-E-B and Nexgen told the jury that they’re not accusing Galloway of knowingly taking the banned substances.
Russell Schell, a lawyer for Nexgen, told the jury that other bottles of the supplement — including ones from the same lot Galloway bought — had been sent for testing, with no results for the banned substance.
But when the exact bottle Galloway bought and opened was sent for testing, the banned substance was found, Schell told jurors in opening statements. The substance was found on the surface level of the multivitamins but not in an equal amount on each pill, Schell said. Lotz, the H-E-B attorney, told jurors that, out of the batch of 1 million pills that Galloway’s bottle came from, only four pills in Galloway’s opened bottle tested positive for the substance.
The lawyers implied that Galloway’s then-fiancé, who trained as a mixed martial arts fighter, might have had access to the bottle but did not provide further details Monday.
Testimony continues Tuesday, and the case is expected to be in the jury’s hands by the end of the week.