American runner blames burrito after shock ban from Tokyo Olympics

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·Sports Editor
·3-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Shelby Houlihan, pictured here in action on the track.
Shelby Houlihan will miss the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo and 2024 in Paris. Image: Getty

A 'devastated' Shelby Houlihan says a pork burrito may be to blame for her positive doping test.

The champion American runner has received a four-year ban after testing positive to an anabolic steroid, ruling her out of the next two Olympic Games.

'BRUTAL': Aussie swimming rocked by 'devastating' moment

'INCREDIBLE': Ariarne Titmus stuns swimming world at Tokyo trials

The American record-holder in the 1500m and 5000m has denied she knowingly took a prohibited substance, saying the positive result might have come from eating pork.

Just days before the US Olympic Track and Field Trials are set to begin, the 28-year-old said in a written statement that the Athletics Integrity Unit informed her in January that a test showed an "adverse analytical finding" for nandrolone.

Houlihan won the 1500m and 5000m at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2019 and was considered a medal contender for the Tokyo Olympics.

She said eating pork in a burrito the night before the test could have led to a false positive for nandrolone.

"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.

"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."

Houlihan competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics but has not raced in 2021.

She said she learned on Friday that the Court of Arbitration for Sport had handed her the ban, dashing her hopes of competing in Tokyo or at the 2024 Paris Games.

"I feel completely devastated, lost, broken, angry, confused and betrayed by the very sport that I’ve loved and poured myself into," she wrote. 

"I have never taken any performance enhancing substances."

Shelby Houlihan, pictured here at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2019.
Shelby Houlihan and Jenny Simpson look on at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2019. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Outrage over Shelby Houlihan's four-year ban

Four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan, who coaches at Houlihan's Bowerman Track Club, wrote on social media: "We are living a nightmare that we can't seem to wake up from.

"If this is where the sport I love is headed, then I don’t know if I can continue to be part of it," wrote Flanagan. 

"I refuse to believe this is acceptable and neither should you."

Eddie Pells of the Associated Press said of Houlihan's case: "All the evidence Houlihan and her defenders have offered...points to the fact that the 28-year-old did not cheat.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

"Given the 53 doping tests the US Anti-Doping Agency has subjected her to since 2017, none of which came back positive, the best explanation for the five nanograms of the performance enhancer nandrolone that showed up in her system could very well be hers: It came from a pork burrito she bought from a street vendor near her home in Beaverton last December.

"But according to the rules in place when Houlihan tested positive (which have been relaxed somewhat, but not in time to help Houlihan), once an athlete tests positive for such a drug, the burden of proof falls on the athlete to show an exculpatory reason the drug entered their system."

Houlihan's attorney Paul Greene told AP: “In my view, what happened to her is entirely unjust.

“This result is going to live with me for the rest of my career because I know Shelby didn’t do anything wrong and she’s banned.”

with agencies

Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting