Acclaimed runner Shelby Houlihan — who currently is the American record holder in the 1,500 and 5,000-meter distances — revealed she has been banned for four years from the sport after she tested positive for an anabolic steroid.
The Olympic hopeful claims the positive test came from an ingredient in a tainted pork burrito she ate last year.
“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 via Instagram on Monday after her suspension by the Athletics Integrity Unit was announced.
"I want to be very clear. I have never taken any performance enhancing substances. And that includes that of which I am being accused," the athlete continued. "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 took the drug test in December, which returned with a result of 5ng/ML of steroid nandrolone, reported SI. The 28-year-old insists the positive result came from consuming a pork burrito approximately "10 hours before" the test from an "authentic Mexican food truck" in Oregon.
"Although my levels were consistent with those of subjects in studies who were tested 10 hours after eating this source and WADA technical guidelines require the lab to consider it when analyzing nandrolone, the lab never accounted for this possibility," she wrote in her statement.
"I have since learned that it has long been understood by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) that eating pork can lead to a false positive for nandrolone, since certain types of pigs produce it naturally in high amounts," Houlihan explained. "Pig organ meat (offal) has the highest levels of nandrolone."
Houlihan claims she did everything in her power to prove her innocence. "I passed a polygraph test. I had my hair sampled by one of the world’s foremost toxicologists. 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."
Her efforts were dismissed as the Athletics Integrity Unit has banned her for four years. "Nothing moved the lab from their initial snap decision," she wrote. "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."