Shelby Houlihan, the American record holder in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, posted on social media this week that she’s been banned for four years following a positive test for what she concluded was a tainted pork burrito. You read that correctly.
Houlihan’s announcement on her Instagram came just days before the start of U.S. Olympic track and field trials. She finished 11th at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the 5,000 meters.
“On January 14th, 2021, I received an email from the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), informing me a drug testing sample that I provided on December 15th, 2020 has returned as an Adverse Analytical Finding for an anabolic steroid called Nandrolone and that I am therefore subject to an immediate Provisional Suspension.
When I got that email, I had to read it over about ten times and google what it was that I had just tested positive for. I had never even heard of nandrolone.
I have since learned that it has long been understood by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) that eating pork can lead to a false positive for nandrolone, since certain types of pigs produce it naturally in high amounts. Pig organ meat (offal) has the highest levels of nandrolone.
In the following 5 days after being notified, I put together a food log of everything that I consumed the week of that December 15th test. 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. I notified the AIU that I believed this was the source.
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.
They could have reported this as an atypical finding and followed up with further testing. The anti-doping experts I have reached out to say they should have. I did everything I could to prove my innocence. I passed a polygraph test. I had my hair sampled by one of the world’s foremost toxicologists.”
She said she passed a polygraph and had a hair sample analyzed by toxicologists.
WADA agreed that test proved that there was no build up of this substance in my body, which there would have been if I were taking it regularly. Nothing moved the lab from their initial snap decision. Instead, they simply concluded that I was a cheater and that a steroid was ingested orally, but not regularly. I believe my explanation fits the facts much better- because it’s true. I also believe it was dismissed without proper due process.
On June 11th, I received the news that the Court of Arbitration did not accept my explanation of what had occurred and has subsequently banned me from the sport for four years.”
Houlihan said she was informed last Friday the Court of Arbitration for Sport, “did not accept my explanation of what had occurred and has subsequently banned me from the sport for four years.”
“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.
I want to be very clear. I have never taken any performance enhancing substances.”
The 12-time All-American at Arizona State won a national championship in the outdoor 1500 meters as a junior. She holds school records in the 800, 1500, mile and 3000 at the university.
Here is a statement from coach Jerry Schumacher: