EUGENE, Erts. After an eight-hour whirlwind that caused great confusion around the world of track and field, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee confirmed on Thursday night that Shelby Houlihan – a distance runner who blamed a positive drug test on contaminated meat in a burrito she ate – may not participate in the U.S. Olympic trials on Friday, and will therefore miss the Games.
Until Thursday morning, it seemed like there was no option for her to compete. Houlihan, who holds the U.S. record in the 1,500 meters, announced on Monday that she had been banned from competing for four years after a drug test in December was positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone.
She said she ate about ten hours before the test at a truck that served pork waste, the inside parts of a pig. some studies has been shown to contain nandrolone. But confusingly, Houlihan’s lawyer said she actually ordered a carne asada burrito (which has beef), and was not clear on how pork waste might get into the tortilla along with the other ingredients. The lawyer, Paul J. Greene, did not respond to an email Thursday night.
Following the positive test, Houlihan and the Athletics Integrity Unit, a drug testing agency set up by World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field, agreed to a speedy process in which the Arbitration Court heard its case. The Swiss court be maintained Houlihan’s suspension of four years, and she was apparently out of the upcoming Olympic Games and the 2024 Games in Paris.
But USA Track & Field, the national governing body of the sport and the organizer of the country’s Olympic trials, unexpectedly announced on Thursday morning that Houlihan may participate.
“As there is an active appeal process, USATF will allow any athlete to continue participating until the process is complete,” the organization said. said in a statement.
Confusion arose immediately.
The ruling of the Arbitration Court for Sport is final and the only instance on which Houlihan can appeal is the Federal Supreme Court in Switzerland, and it is not clear whether she did so.
It also appears that the rules of both World Athletics and the World Anti-Doping Agency do not allow Houlihan to participate, and throughout Thursday, various national and international bodies condemned USA Track & Field’s initial decision to allow her to take part in the trials. participate.
“All member federations must respect CAS decisions,” a World Athletics spokesman said in a statement, adding that the organization was talking to USA Track & Field.
The Athletics Integrity Unit said that he wrote to USA Track & Field to explain that Houlihan participates in a competition or activity authorized or organized by a World Athletics Member Federation, such as USATF (ie the US Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field) is strictly prohibited. ”
A spokesman for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which is not even formally involved in Houlihan’s case, said: “According to the rules, she may not compete. It would be illegal for her to do so unless a court determines otherwise. ‘
The national governing body has even been criticized by more than 30 prominent runners, including Des Linden and Molly Seidel, who said in an open letter that the organization’s decision “sets a very worrying precedent for our sport.” ‘
Houlihan, however, was listed as a participant in the 1,500 and 5,000-meter races on Thursday – both of which were scheduled for preliminary rounds on Friday – before the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee finally intervened.
If Houlihan had been able to compete, USA Track & Field would have risked punishment from several organizations. Late Thursday night, Sarah Hirshland, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said the organization and the U.S. Track & Field “can confirm that we have the WADA code and all CAS decisions affecting the athlete’s participation in sanction events. regulate, will comply. “
It remains unclear why USA Track & Field believes Houlihan is still eligible to participate, and a spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. But, apart from another unforeseen turn, Houlihan will be the closest to being able to watch the first heats of the races she had hoped for from the stands.
Alanis Thames reported from Orlando, Fla., contributed.