Shelby Houlihan, an American middle-distance runner, said she has been banned from the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for nandrolone, an anabolic steroid. She said she is clean and blamed the test result on a pork burrito she had from a food truck.
However, anti-doping officials do not agree with the runner. They have handed the 28-year-old Olympic athlete a four-year ban. She is now banned from this year’s Summer Olympics and the Paris Olympics in 2024.
On her Instagram Feed, Houlihan said, “I feel completely devastated, lost, broken, angry, confused and betrayed by the very sport that I’ve loved and poured myself into just to see how good I was.”
She said she is going to fight the ban. During an emotional virtual news conference, Houlihan said, “I’m going to continue to fight to prove my innocence. I absolutely respect and wholeheartedly support the fight to catch athletes who disrespect the sport by cheating and doping. But I’m not one of them.”
In January, Houlihan was given a provisional suspension. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) informed her that a test sample from December 15, 2020, had come back positive for nandrolone.
Since then, the American record holder has been trying to prove her innocence in a variety of ways, including a food log she compiled after learning of the test result, according to NPR.
Upon reviewing what she ate, she said, “We concluded that the most likely explanation was a burrito purchased and consumed approximately 10 hours before that drug test from an authentic Mexican food truck that serves pig offal near my house in Beaverton, Oregon.”
Citing a few studies, Houlihan pointed out that nandrolone occurs naturally in some pigs.
Houlihan and her coaches in Oregon said they never heard of nandrolone before learning of a positive test result in January. They said she is being punished for a flawed testing process.
She said, “I want to be very clear. I have never taken any performance-enhancing substances. And that includes that of which I am being accused.”
Houlihan went on to say she has passed a polygraph test and had a hair sample analysis done which found no buildup of the steroid in her body.
Houlihan’s coach Jerry Schumachershad she is the victim of a broken system. He said, “Throughout this process, we were confident that the truth would lead to justice. What I’ve come to learn instead is that anti-doping authorities are okay with convicting innocent athletes so long as nine out of ten convictions are legitimate.”
Houlihan also said that the officials did not do follow-up tests to determine whether her initial result was due to any anomaly.
Referring to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), she said, “Although my levels were consistent with those of subjects in studies who were tested 10 hours after eating this source and WADA technical guidelines require the lab to consider it when analyzing nandrolone, the lab never accounted for this possibility.”
On June 11, the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected her explanation, resulting in a four-year ban. On Tuesday, the court confirmed that it had found her guilty, after an online hearing on June 4.
Houlihan said she plans to appeal the court’s decision.
She said, “I believe in the sport and pushing your body to the limit just to see where the limit is. I’m not interested in cheating. I don’t do this for the accolades, money, or for people to know my name. I do this because I love it. I have so much fun doing it and it’s always the best part of my day.”