Houlihan set to be barred from US Olympic trials

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Shelby Houlihan's attempts to compete in the US Olympic trials despite a drug ban appears to have hit another snag
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Drug-tainted middle distance runner Shelby Houlihan looks set to be barred from competing at US track and field trials after opposition from World Athletics' anti-doping watchdog.

Houlihan had been given permission to compete at the trials starting in Eugene, Oregon on Friday by United States Track and Field despite revelations of a four-year doping ban earlier this week.

The 28-year-old 1,500m and 5,000m runner had vowed to fight against the suspension, and USATF said earlier Thursday she would be allowed to run as she attempted to overturn the ban.

However the decision to allow Houlihan to compete raised eyebrows across the sporting world, with the Athletics Integrity Unit -- World Athletics' independent anti-doping watchdog -- leading the pushback.

"A final and binding decision confirmed that Ms Houlihan committed anti-doping rule violations and was subject to a period of eligibility of four years beginning on 14 January 2021," an AIU statement read.

"Ms Houlihan's status during the period of ineligibility means that participation in any competition...such as US Olympic trials is strictly prohibited."

Later Thursday, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee appeared to slam the door shut on Houlihan's hopes of being allowed to compete in a brief statement saying it would abide by the international anti-doping regulations.

Houlihan, who blamed her positive test on contaminated meat in a burrito from a Mexican food truck, had been included in the start lists for the opening heats of the women's 1,500m on Friday at Hayward Field.

The 28-year-old US 1,500m and 5,000m record-holder has gone on the offensive after her test result was revealed this week, vowing to exhaust every possible legal avenue in an attempt to reverse her ban.

Although not mentioning Houlihan by name, a statement from United States Track and Field on Thursday said any athlete would be allowed to compete while an appeals process is ongoing.

"Given there is an active appeal process, USATF will allow any athletes to continue competing until the process is completed," the statement said.

Houlihan tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in December last year. The US runner blamed the result on a tainted pork burrito she bought from a food truck near her home in Oregon the night before the test.

The AIU notified Houlihan of the positive test in January, triggering a provisional suspension.

The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) informed her of the decision to uphold her ban.

Given that Houlihan's case has already been heard by CAS -- international sport's highest authority for settling disputes -- the only avenue left to Houlihan is to take the case before a Swiss Federal Tribunal.

Houlihan told Fox News on Wednesday however that she was determined to challenge a suspension which rules her out of competing at this year's Olympics and the 2024 Olympics in Paris -- an effective death knell for her career.

"I'm putting all my trust in the process," Houlihan said. "I've tried to so far and honestly it’s failed me. But I'm going to keep trusting that the truth will come out and that I will be able to compete in the coming years."

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