© Copyright = 2022 – Athletics Illustrated

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford made the news in a big way this week 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.

Shelby Houlihan, the subject of conversation hasn’t been heard from yet, until now. She has released a statement exclusively to Athletics Illustrated and Let’sRun.com:

Houlihan’s statement

“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.

“This absence of clarity surrounding the boundaries between BTC and a banned athlete is the critical reason for my departure,” DeBues-Stafford told Let’sRun.com.

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.”

DeBues-Stafford will now be training under the guidance of Canadian exercise physiologist and coach Trent Stellingwerff and two-time Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff who is now the head coach of the University of Victoria Vikes teams.

“BTC staff and Shelby’s lawyers have spent a lot of time and energy to clarify what Shelby can and cannot do during her period of ineligibility,” DeBues-Stafford told Let’sRun.com. “The athletes at BTC and I are not privy to these discussions. While the [World Anti-Doping Code] has clauses relating to athletes serving bans, they are light on detail and leave some pretty key words undefined. Unfortunately, for reasons I don’t fully understand, the athletes and I are not allowed to read the verbatim clarifications and guidelines given to Shelby and her lawyers by the anti-doping authorities.

Shelby Houlihan at Victoria Track Classic.

“Furthermore, my and the group’s suggestions on boundaries to avoid any potential grey areas in the absence of those clarifying guidelines were rejected. I think Jerry is a great guy, and I can’t imagine him putting his athletes in a position that he thinks would break any codes or any guidelines given to either himself or Shelby. However, it doesn’t matter how much I like or respect someone, or if I believe that they think they are abiding by the rules, I need to personally be able to verify all relevant text verbatim to ensure I am adhering to all codes of ethics and anti-doping in our sport. I cannot outsource that responsibility to someone else.”

Houlihan clearly needs to continue to train to be ready in case the ban is shortened after the appeal and to keep fit for her own mental health. The appeal continues.
“As for my appeal, the status hasn’t changed and I am still waiting on it. I’m still running and training because it’s what makes me happy but I’m also continuing to stay hopeful in clearing my name and I’m trying to trust that the truth will win in the end. 
Training and having to tackle workouts alone has at times been very difficult and challenging for me, mostly mentally and emotionally. It’s been a learning curve in establishing a new sense of normal but overall, training is going well.”

More will come from this in regards to Houlihan’s pending appeal. Meanwhile, DeBues-Stafford has an outdoor season to get ready for as well as the World Athletics Championships take place in Eugene, Oregon this summer.