US 1,500 and 5,000m record holder Shelby Houlihan was suspended for four years for doping after claiming to eat a contaminated pork burrito 10 hours before a positive nandrolone test was rejected.
In a statement, Houlihan, who ran 3 minutes 54.99 seconds over 1,500m to finish fourth at the 2019 world championships and was considered one of the top contenders for the Olympic medals, said she had “never heard of nandrolone ”when she was first informed of the news by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) in January.
The 28-year-old insisted that the ingestion of the anabolic steroid must have been inadvertently taken from eating a burrito “from an authentic Mexican food truck that serves pork offal near my home in Beaverton,” Oregon ”10 hours before a 6am drug test last December.
Houlihan’s team had agreed with the IAU to hold an expedited hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) in Lausanne, hoping to prove their innocence ahead of the US trials which start this weekend, but have been handed down public after hearing Cas’s verdict was contrary to its.
“I did all I could to prove my innocence,” Houlihan said. “I took a polygraph test. I had my hair sampled by one of the world’s leading toxicologists. The World Anti-Doping Agency agreed that the test proved that there was no accumulation of this substance in my body, which would have been the case if I had taken it regularly.
“Nothing moved the lab from its initial instant decision. Instead, they just 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 want to be very clear. I have never taken any performance enhancing substances.
Case is expected to release his full reasoning in the coming days, but Houlihan’s lawyer Paul Greene said an appeal to the Swiss federal court is under consideration.
Houlihan coach Jerry Schumacher also spoke against the verdict. “What we are witnessing here is a great tragedy in the history of American long-distance running,” he said.
“To IAU and Wada: Shame on you. Shame on you for not caring about the truth. Shame on you for using athletes in a political chess match. You got it wrong this time and it’s not OK. It’s not good to be right nine out of 10 times when deciding to execute someone’s life and sporting dreams.
However, Brett Clothier, the head of the IAU, said Houlihan’s case had been tried on the merits by an independent panel.
“After being indicted by the IAU, Ms Houlihan’s case was heard by a three-member panel at Cas, which made its decision after hearing the evidence and arguments from the athlete’s and its lawyers. AIU, ”he said.