Middle distance runner Shelby Houlihan will be allowed to run at the US Olympic trials despite being hit with a four-year doping ban after testing positive for a banned steroid, officials confirmed on Thursday.
Houlihan, who blamed her positive test on contaminated meat in a burrito from a Mexican food truck, was included in the start lists for the opening heats of the women’s 1,500m on Friday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
The 28-year-old US 1,500m and 5,000m record-holder has gone on the offensive after her test result was revealed this week, vowing to exhaust every possible legal avenue in an attempt to overturn her ban.
Although not mentioning Houlihan by name, a statement from United States Track and Field on Thursday said any athlete would be allowed to compete while an appeals process is ongoing.
“Given there is an active appeal process, USATF will allow any athletes to continue competing until the process is completed,” the statement said.
On Wednesday, Houlihan told Fox News in an interview that she would fight to overturn her ban.
“I’m trying to seek every option that we can to appeal this,” she said.
“It’s not right. I don’t think I should be serving a four-year ban for something that I didn’t do. We’re trying to exhaust every option that we can.”
Houlihan tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in December last year. The US runner blamed the result on a tainted pork burrito she bought from a food truck near her home in Oregon the night before the test.
The Athletics Integrity Unit, track and field’s independent anti-doping watchdog, notified Houlihan of the positive test in January, triggering a provisional suspension.
The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) informed the 28-year-old on June 11 of the decision to uphold her ban.
Given that Houlihan’s case has already been heard by CAS — international sport’s highest authority for settling disputes — the only avenue left to Houlihan is to take the case before a Swiss Federal Tribunal.
Houlihan told Fox on Wednesday however that she was determined to challenge a suspension which rules her out of competing at this year’s Olympics and the 2024 Olympics in Paris — an effective death knell for her career.
“I’m putting all my trust in the process,” Houlihan said. “I’ve tried to so far and honestly it’s failed me. But I’m going to keep trusting that the truth will come out and that I will be able to compete in the coming years.
“I worked really hard and I’m in the best shape of my life right now but I’m trying to trust the process and hope that I can get justice from this.”
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