A “devastated” top American athlete has been banned for four years following a positive drugs test which she has blamed on eating a burrito.
Shelby Houlihan said she thought the nandrolone result may have come from consuming the snack 10 hours before the test.
The middle distance runner claimed eating pork could lead to a false positive for the anabolic steroid.
Back in January, the 28-year-old, who is the US record holder in the women’s 1,500m and 5,000m, was told that nandrolone had been found in a doping sample.
Houlihan, who had been considered a medal contender for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, has denied ever taking performance-enhancing substances.
Now, a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport has handed her the ban after not accepting her explanation.
Her announcement comes just days before the start of US Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three in each event earn a spot in the postponed games. She was 11th in the 5,000m at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In a statement on social media, she wrote: “I feel completely devastated, lost, broken, angry, confused and betrayed by the very sport that I’ve loved and poured myself into.
“I want to be very clear. I have never taken any performance-enhancing substances.”
She said: “On January 14th, 2021, I received an email from the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), informing me a drug testing sample that I provided on December 15th, 2020 has returned as an adverse analytical finding for an anabolic steroid called nandrolone and that I am therefore subject to an immediate provisional suspension.
“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. Pig organ meat (offal) has the highest levels of nandrolone.
“In the following five days after being notified, I put together a food log of everything that I consumed the week of that December 15th test.
“We concluded that the most likely explanation was a burrito purchased and consumed approximately 10 hours before that drug test from an authentic Mexican food truck that serves pig offal near my house in Beaverton, Oregon.”
She went on: “I notified the AIU (Athletics Integrity Unit) that I believed this was the source.
“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.
“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.”
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,” Flanagan added.
“I refuse to believe this is acceptable and neither should you.”