US record holder in the 1500m and 5000m, Shelby Houlihan, banned for four years after testing positive for Nandrolone. Our Youtube reaction.
  Picture by Kirby Lee, USA TODAY SPORTS

Shelby Houlihan, Bowerman Track Club athlete and the fastest US woman ever over the 1500m and 5000m, has been banned from competition for four years after she tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone. The out-of-competition test took place in December 2020 and she, along with her coach, were notified of the results on January 14th 2021.

Nandrolone is an anabolic steroid that when used in certain ways and in specific doses can improve athletic performance and physique. It’s a controlled substance in many countries throughout the world and is generally only used legally in specific medical circumstances.

After several attempts to challenge the findings through the submission of food logs, technical data and toxicology evidence, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) dismissed her appeal on 11th June and upheld the original decision, banning her from the sport for four years.

In a press conference, Shelby said, ” I feel completely devastated, lost, broke, 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 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 that limit is. I’m not interested in cheating.”

In a similarly devastating statement, her coach, Jerry Schumacher, who claims to have never even heard of nandrolone prior to the positive test notification, accused WADA and the AIU of double-standards, stating that USADA would have never have treated her this way. “I believe if this had been USADA handling her case it would have been handled differently. At the very least, I’m confident she would have been treated fairly”, Schumacher said.

Houlihan claims that the nandrolone discovered in her system can only have come from a burrito she ate from a local restaurant near her home which she says was around 10 hours prior to the test; the result indicated that she had 5 ng/mL of nandrolone in her system. As a result, she requested a hearing at CAS to present evidence in her defence and underwent a polygraph test.

The court refused to accept her explanation however and her provisional suspension was formally turned into a four year ban on 11th June 2021. Future appeals beyond the CAS are extremely rare, however, there is precedent for athletes, including Caster Semenya, taking their case to the Swiss Federal courts who holds jurisdiction over CAS.

Houlihan is a 13-time US national champion and national record holder in the 1500m and 5000m, which she set at a Bowerman Track Club time trial in 2020, she ran the national 5000m record of 14:23.92. She placed 11th at Rio Olympics in the 5000m and, in arguably her greatest achievement, finished 4th in the 1500m at the World Championships in Doha in 2019, running 3:54.99 and setting a US record in the process.

Full statements from Shelby and Coach Jerry Schumacher can be read on her personal Instagram and the Bowerman Track Club Instagram respectively. @shelbo800 @bowermantc