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Shelby Houlihan – 4 year Drug Ban Upheld

  • U.S athlete given a 4-year ban in June 2021 after a positive test dating back to December 2020.

  • Athlete and her team claimed she ingested nandrolone from contaminated food.

  • CAS says "close to zero" probability a pork burrito led to failed drugs test.

Houlihan has maintained her innocence, claiming the drug was ingested after eating at a food truck.

Photograph: Courtney White (

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that the probability of the failed drugs test due to a contaminated pork burrito was “very close to zero.” Houlihan said she may have accidently eaten the meat of an uncastrated boar from a Mexican food truck. However after publishing a 44-page document the CAS outlined that this explanation “simply cannot be accepted”. The CAS also stated that “the explanation presupposes a cascade of factual and scientific improbabilities” and listed the following reasons for this.

  • Houlihan would have had to have been served pork at the food truck, despite admitting to ordering beef.

  • The pork itself could not have been a ‘normal’ pork product, but an uncastrated boar.

  • Uncastrated boars enter the food chain through different channels than pork does meaning that it would be very difficult for this meat to avoid detection and enter the food chain.

  • Finally, if the meat had entered the food chain, the specimen can only have been a cryporchid (a boar with undescended testicles) and in addition, it must have had elevated androgen levels (a natural or synthetic steroid hormone that produces the secondary male sex characteristics which includes bone and muscle development as well as metabolism). This elevated androgen level would be abnormal for 6-month old pigs.

Expert witness, Professor McGlone (a professor in the animal welfare department at the Texas Tech University) stated that the chance of a cryporchid ending up in the food chain was less than 1 in 10,000. The court stated that “the concentration of nandrolone in the athlete’s urine was 2-3 times higher than the highest values reported in the scientific literature after the ingestion of much more significant quantities of meat of mature (uncastrated) boar.

Houlihan herself stated “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.” She also pointed to her good character and sought testimonials from some of her Bowerman Track Club team-mates.

However, CAS said that “neither the hair analysis nor the polygraph results are sufficient for the athlete to rebut the presumption that the anti-doping rule violation was intentional.”

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