Shelby Houlihan, American track star, faces 4-year ban after steroid tests

Shelby Houlihan, an American 1,500m star athlete, says she has been banned from the Tokyo Olympics since she tested positive for nandrolone and banned anabolic steroid. However, the star blames the results are faulty and that the tests detected the steroid from the pork burrito she had had from a food truck.

Shelby states in her Instagram post that she was notified of the ban on 14th January, 2021, from the Athletics Integrity Unit, an independent body made by the World Athletics to manage integrity issues in sports. The report states that a sample submitted by Shelby on 15th December 2020 showed an “adverse analytical finding” for nandrolone, which resulted in immediate provisional suspension.

However, Shelby Houlihan refuted the findings of the test and even stated that she had never heard of the steroid and only found out about it that eating pork can lead to a false positive for certain types of steroids from the World Anti-Doping Agency. Additionally, pigs have a naturally high level of nandrolone in their body, as confirmed by a report published in Drug Testing and Analysis last year.

Shelby wrote on her post that she created a food log of everything she consumed in the week of the December 2020 test for five days after being notified. It was concluded that the most likely explanation was that a burrito was purchased and consumed around 10 hours before the drug test from an authentic Mexican food truck that serves pig offal near her house in Beaverton, Oregon.

She added that even though studies show that the level of nandrolone detected in her body was consistent with the level of nandrolone seen after eating pork, the WADA guidelines require the lab to reconsider the test. However, the lab did not consider the possibility, resulting in a 4-year ban on the athlete. Shelby also stated that she had consulted experts, took polygraph tests, and even sent a hair sample to top toxicologists to prove her innocence.

“WADA agreed that the 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, Shelby also wrote on her post. The star athlete has appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) with evidence; however, the court rejected her explanation and upheld the 4-year suspension on 11th June.

“I felt 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,” Shelby continued in her post.

A press release by the CAS announcing Shelby’s “anti-doping rule violation” said the athlete failed to establish the origin of the steroid, specifically for 19-norandrosterone (19NA) and therefore is awarded a 4-year ineligible status, beginning 14th January 2021. “The CAS Panel unanimously determined that Shelby Houlihan had failed, on the balance of probability, to establish the source of the prohibited substance,” the press release added.

Several teammates and her coach, Jerry Schumacher, defended her and showed their support for the 1,500m and 5,000m track star.

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