Runner Shelby Houlihan blames burrito for positive nandrolone test that led to four-year ban


Star American runner Shelby Houlihan will not be able to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. In fact, she won’t be able to compete at all for the next four years after testing positive for the anabolic steroid Nandrolone.

But Houlihan is maintaining her innocence and is blaming another culprit for her positive test: A burrito from “an authentic Mexican food truck” near her house in Beaverton, Oregon.

As Houlihan explained in an Instagram post, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has communicated that eating pork can lead to false-positive tests for Nandrolone. Why? Because “certain types of pigs produce it naturally in high amounts.” So, that’s why she believes the burrito triggers a false positive.

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Nonetheless, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is upholding her suspension, and Houlihan isn’t happy with the handling of her decision.

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. 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. 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 also expressed her emotions and reiterated that she has never taken performance enhancing substances in her post.

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.


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

Certainly, this is an unfortunate situation for Houlihan, who was set to compete in her second Olympic Games and stood a good chance of earning a medal. She set an American record in the 5000m race in 2018 with a mark of 14:34.45 and later broke her own record in 2020 with a 14:23.92 time.

Additionally, Houlihan holds the American record with a 3:54.99 time in the 1500m race.

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