Top Runner Blames Burrito for Positive Steroid Test

June 16, 2021 — One of America’s top runners says eating a pork burrito probably caused a positive steroid test that resulted in her being banned from competing in the U.S. Olympic trials.

Shelby Houlihan, 28, competed for the U.S. in the 2016 summer games and holds American records for the 1,500- and 5,000-meter races. She was a favorite to win a medal at this year’s summer games in Tokyo.

In an Instagram post, she said she learned Monday that the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of the Court of Arbitration for Sport had upheld her 4-year suspension.

“I feel 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,” she said in the post. “I want to be very clear. I have never taken any performance enhancing substances. And that includes that of which I am being accused.”

Houlihan said she received an email in January from the Athletics Integrity Unit informing her that a Dec. 15, 2020, drug test came back positive for nandrolone. 

The National Institutes of Health says nandrolone is an anabolic steroid analog of testosterone that can increase nitrogen retention and fat-free muscle mass.

She said she made a log of everything she’d eaten during that time.

“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 wrote.

“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,” she continued.

Houlihan appealed the suspension and said she went so far as to take a polygraph test and have her hair sampled for evidence of steroids, but the appeal was rejected.


The New York Times reported that Brett Clothier, head of the AIU, said the case was handled properly.

“After being charged by the AIU, Ms. Houlihan’s case was heard by a three-member panel at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which made its decision after hearing evidence and arguments from the athlete’s lawyers and the AIU,” Clothier said in an email. 


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