Distance runner Shelby Houlihan was banned from the sport for four years after testing positive for an anabolic steroid, and she’s blaming a burrito.
Houlihan, who is the current national champion and record-holder at both the 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter runs, wrote on Instagram on Monday that she had been banned for four years after testing positive for nandrolone, an anabolic steroid.
The “most likely explanation” for the positive test, she said, was a “burrito purchased and consumed approximately 10 hours before that drug test from an authentic Mexican food truck.”
Shelby Houlihan: ‘I feel completely devastated’
Houlihan said she was initially banned by the Athletics Integrity Unit, and that she appealed the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. She was told Friday that, even though nandrolone has previously been found in pork, that it didn’t accept her appeal.
“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,” Houlihan wrote, in part.
“I want to be very clear. I have never taken any performance enhancing substances. And that includes that of which I am being accused. 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.”
Houlihan also said that she passed a polygraph test and sent a sample of her hair to “the world’s foremost toxicologists.”
Though her excuse sounds ridiculous on its face — she is blaming a burrito, after all — Houlihan said that the levels of the steroid found in her system were consistent with subjects in studies who have eaten the same source of meat that she did before the test, and not that of someone who was taking it regularly.
“[The World Anti-Doping Agency] 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,” she wrote, in part. “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.”
Houlihan, 28, competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, her first Games. She was widely considered a favorite to contend for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics next month, too. The Iowa native set the American 5,000-meter record last year when she finished in just 14:23.92, and claimed the 1,500-meter record at the world championship in Qatar in 2019.