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15 Jun, 2021 15:13

‘Lost, broken, angry, confused and betrayed’: US record holder blames pork burrito on failed drugs test and four-year running ban

‘Lost, broken, angry, confused and betrayed’: US record holder blames pork burrito on failed drugs test and four-year running ban

Champion American middle distance runner Shelby Houlihan has received a four-year ban for testing positive for a prohibited substance, blaming the fiasco on a pork burrito she ate in her hometown in Oregon.

The 2016 Summer Olympics finalist was told in January that an anabolic steroid, nandrolone, had been found in her doping sample. and addressed the scandal through a statement on social media this week.

The 28-year-old has denied ever doping and pointed the finger at a porcine snack she says she consumed.

"I had never even heard of nandrolone," she insisted. "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. 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."

The American record holder at 1500m and 5000m argued that the result should have been reported as atypical and followed up with further testing.

"The anti-doping experts I have reached out to say they should have [done that]. 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. 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."

Houlihan claimed that she was confused and in the dark, read the correspondence from the Athletics Integrity Unit "about ten times" and had to Google what she had tested positive for.

Putting together a food log of everything she had consumed in the week of her December 15th test, Houlihan and her people "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."

As a result of her ban, Houlihan will miss this year's Olympics in Tokyo and the Paris edition in 2024.

"Since I started running when I was five years old, I’ve had dreams of running professionally, setting records, winning an Olympic gold medal and being one of the best in the world," she said.

"I have always blindly believed that I was good enough to achieve those things.

"As I’ve become older, I’ve put in more time, more miles, have become more dedicated, and have learned to genuinely love this sport.

"It’s what brings me the most joy. It’s where I feel the most me. I have always done it the right way. I’ve put my head down and just worked at being better year after year. I’ve stayed patient and trusted that the work and consistency would show.

"I still have all of the same dreams I had when I was five and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been able to have achieved some of them. I still have others that I’m working towards.

"But the thing that truly drives me is the love and joy I get from what I do and the curiosity to find out what my potential is."

Heartbroken Houlihan said she felt "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".

"I want to be very clear: I have never taken any performance enhancing substances," she insisted. "And that includes that of which I am being accused.

"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."

After the boxer Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, she is the second sports professional in recent years to blame a failed drugs test on tainted meat.

"This was my mistake for not reading up on the risks, not researching more on the subject, on what's going on with the beef in Mexico," Alvarez said in July 2018 after a result earlier that year showing traces of clenbuterol held up a long-awaited rematch with Gennady Golovkin in May.

"But I didn't do anything intentionally. I didn't do anything to try to enhance my performance. I would never do anything like that. It was a mistake and nothing more, not educating myself about this problem in Mexico.

"United States beef is different. I can eat it without any risk because there's more control here. But I'm trying to get used to not eating beef. Because most of the time I'm in Mexico, and I've stopped eating beef."

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