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Olympic Hopeful: Tainted Burrito Led to Doping Ban

Brock Fritz

A former United States Olympian will miss out on a chance to compete in the Tokyo Games this summer due to what she says was a tainted pork burrito.

Shelby Houlihan, who took 11th in the 5,000 meters at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, announced Monday that she’s been banned four years and won’t compete at the upcoming U.S. Olympic track and field trials due to testing positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone.

“I want to be very clear. I have never taken any performance enhancing substances,” Houlihan wrote on Instagram. “I believe in the sport and pushing your body to the limit to see where the limit is. I’m not interested in cheating.”

According to The Associated Press, Houlihan said the Athletics Integrity Unit notified her Jan. 14 that her drug test came back positive. She made a list of everything she ate leading up to the Dec. 15 drug test, concluding 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.”

The American record holder in the 1,500 meters (3:54.99) and 5,000 meters (14:23.92), Houlihan said she has 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.”

She said she told the Athletics Integrity Unit she believed her positive test came from the burrito, and passed a polygraph while toxicologists analyzed her hair sample. The Court of Arbitration for Sport told Houlihan last Friday that her explanation didn’t hold up and she is banned from track and field for four years.

“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,” Houlihan wrote. “They could have reported this as an atypical finding and followed up with further testing. The anti-doping experts I have reached out to say they should have. I did everything I could to prove my innocence.

“WADA agreed that (the hair sample) 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.”

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