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Eight months ago, in September 2021, Shelby Houlihan declared that her next course of action was an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal. This announcement came after the release of a 44-page full report from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), on her appeal (to the CAS) on her drugs suspension. The Tribunal delivered its verdict. The suspension is upheld. Houlihan will not be able to compete until 2025.
At the time, the 28-year-old told Athletics Illustrated, “Our next step is to file an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.”
Despite the detailed report, Houlihan continued to feel that pig offal on a grill contaminated her beef burrito purchased at a food truck. She said it contained nandrolone and was the primary logical explanation for the positive drug test.
“We tested all of my vitamins and supplements which all came back negative. Unfortunately, there were a couple that we didn’t have the original batches of because I was notified a month later and those supplements were already consumed,” shared Houlihan.
“For us, looking at all of the possibilities, we knew that pig offal was a natural source of nandrolone and that eating it could elevate the levels in the body. We knew that I had eaten a burrito from a food truck that also served pig offal approximately 10 hours prior to that. We knew that when you ingest pig offal that contains nandrolone, the levels of that hormone in the body reach its peak around 10 hours after consumption. To us, this was the most logical explanation of how this could have happened. The only thing that we truly did know with 100% certainty was that I did not intentionally take that substance or any other prohibited substance in any form.”
Houlihan appealed her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), however, the organisation upheld the ban. Houlihan subsequently wrote on her Facebook page that on January 14, 2021, she was notified by the AIU of the positive test result. She went on to say that she has dedicated her life to the sport and would never cheat.
“On January 14th, 2021, I received an email from the AIU, informing me a drug testing sample that I provided on December 15th, 2020 has returned as an Adverse Analytical Finding for a steroid called nandrolone and that I am therefore subject to an immediate Provisional Suspension. When I got that email, I had to read it over about ten times and google what it was that I had just tested positive for. I had never even heard of nandrolone.
Houlihan wrote on Instagram, “Last week, I was informed that I lost my appeals and my ban will be upheld. No reason has been given yet for why they were dismissed. I was told from the start that it was a long shot; it’s extremely hard to overturn these cases and I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I had to try anyway. I had to fight for myself, my career, and my reputation because I am innocent. The truth hasn’t won here and that’s devastating.
Fallout from the positive test
Gabriela DeBues-Stafford made the news in a big way in early April by leaving the Nike Bowerman Track Club. She published the news of her change on Instagram. The message was about her move to Victoria, BC to train at the Athletics Canada West Hub. The seven-time Canadian record holder followed up with comments published in Canadian Running Magazine and at Let’s Run.
Houlihan wrote to Athletics Illustrated, “I never knew of her concerns and struggles until finding out about all of this through her announcement. Having to find out about it and deal with it through such a public manner has been really hurtful and frustrating,” shared Houlihan. “I know her choosing not to come to me to discuss it was out of kindness and wanting to protect me and my mental health but I wish I would have been given the opportunity to have those conversations with her regarding her concerns to see if I could have cleared anything up or eased the situation for her in any way.”
DeBues-Stafford said she left the group due to uncertainty around Houlihan’s continued involvement with Bowerman Track Club and head coach Jerry Schumacher.
Houlihan added in her statement to Athletics Illustrated, “I never wanted to have a negative impact on anyone in my decision to continue training and it hurts that I’m finding out that I did. Running and working out have always been a source of joy and happiness for me as well as a coping mechanism. My legal team and I have been very deliberate and intentional in contacting the AIU and other governing bodies to figure out how I can continue to run and train for my own mental health in a way that is also abiding by and respecting the rules put in place. I care about all of the athletes and staff on BTC and I was always considering them with every decision I made. I realize now that I should have been more communicative in those decisions.”
“I do wish Gabriela the best with her transition and moving forward. I hope she found a training environment that’s positive and brings her happiness.”