Shelby Houlihan Ban – Here’s What We Know About Shelby Houlihan’s Case


This article will be updated.

On June 14, the Bowerman Track Club announced that Shelby Houlihan had tested positive for nandrolone, an anabolic-androgenic steroid, in December and been suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for four years. An appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the suspension.

Houlihan’s defense is that she ordered a carne asada burrito at a food truck near her house in Beaverton, Oregon, but was given, and ate, a burrito containing pork stomach, which contained nandrolone.

Here are the latest developments in the case:

In the morning, Houlihan is on the heat sheets for the Trials

      Thursday morning, Houlihan’s name appeared on the heat sheets for the preliminaries of the 1500 meters and the semifinals of the 5,000 meters, both of which take place on Friday, when the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials start in Eugene, Oregon. She’s in the third of three heats of the 1500 and the first of two heats of the 5,000. She’s the American record-holder in both events, and, if Houlihan, 28, is allowed to run one or both, she is likely to advance.

      After the appearance of the heat sheets, USATF released the following statement via Twitter: “Given there is an active appeal process, USATF will allow any athletes to continue competing until the process is completed.”

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      USATF CEO Max Siegel told the Associated Press: “You can always resolve the outcome later, but you can’t re-run a race.”

      Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

      USATF appears to backtrack under pressure

      The USATF decision was widely seen as a violation of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules.

      The AP pointed out that the event is overseen by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). If Houlihan runs, it would be a violation of world anti-doping rules. And the AP story quotes U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart: “She is serving a sanction. Under the rules she’s not allowed to compete. It would be illegal for her to do so, unless a court orders differently.”

      And late in the day, it seemed as if Houlihan would once again be barred from the Trials, and USATF was backtracking after pressure.

      The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said in a statement, “All Member Federations must respect CAS decisions under the WADA code. We are talking to USATF.”

      Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the USOPC, said in a statement, “The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, together with USATF, can confirm that we will adhere to the WADA Code and any CAS decisions that govern athlete participation in sanctioned events.”

      And the Athletics Integrity Unit said in a statement it had written to USATF concerning the possible participation of Houlihan in the upcoming Trials.

      “The AIU clarified that as a Member Federation of World Athletics, USATF must, in the running of its events, respect and implement decisions of hearing bodies such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which are made under the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules.

      “In this case, a final and binding CAS decision confirmed that Ms Houlihan committed Anti-Doping Rule Violations and was subject to a period of Ineligibility of four (4) years beginning on 14 January 2021. Ms Houlihan’s status during the period of Ineligibility means that participation in any Competition or activity authorized or organized by a World Athletics Member Federation, such as USATF (i.e., the U.S. Olympic Team Trials—Track & Field) is strictly prohibited.”

      A source told Runner’s World the only possible way Houlihan could start a race is if she appeals and is given an injunction, and it is not clear if Houlihan’s team is pursuing that strategy. A call to Houlihan’s attorney, Paul Greene, was not immediately returned.

      Is an appeal in the works? During the Bowerman press conference on June 14, Greene said they had already appealed to CAS, and lost. The only possible appeal of that decision is to a Swiss federal tribunal, which, Greene said, is like the U.S. Supreme Court.

      “We’re in the process of figuring that out,” he told Runner’s World in a phone call on June 16. “We’re going to have to get a Swiss [law] firm involved.”

      Athletes started weighing in

      After a coordinated social media blitz by many of Houlihan’s Bowerman Track Club teammates on June 14 in support of her, the rest of the elite running world was largely silent.

      That changed today, with the decision by USATF to allow Houlihan to compete. Several athletes weighed in on their personal social media accounts.

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      And a number of athletes attached their names to an open letter directed at the USATF.

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      Des Linden used saltier language to express disgust at USATF’s decision.

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