Did A Burrito Cause An Olympic Hopeful To Test Positive For Steroids?

If you’re facing a doping test anytime soon, be warned.

The Tokyo Olympics are (finally) almost here! The opening ceremony is on Friday, July 23, and then we'll get a chance to cheer for Simone Biles and a whole bunch of other people we only hear about every four years. The U.S. is still in the process of assembling its team, and trials are currently in progress. But Shelby Houlihan, a runner who currently holds the world records for the 1,500- and 5,000-meter races, already knows she won't be going to Tokyo. She blames the burrito.

Back in December, The New York Times reports, Houlihan tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone. In January, she received word from the Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles drug testing for World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field. Houlihan was suspended from international competition for four years. She appealed the suspension, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced last week, just before the U.S. Olympic trials for track and field, that it was upholding the decision.

In an Instagram post pleading her case, Houlihan swears that she has never taken a steroid and before all this happened, had no idea what nandrolone even is. She made a list of everything she consumed during the week of December 15, when she took her drug test, and decided the culprit was a pork burrito she'd gotten from a food truck near her home in Beaverton, Oregon, and ate about ten hours before the test.

"I have since learned that it has long been understood by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) that eating pork can lead to a false positive for nandrolone, since certain types of pigs produce it naturally in high amounts," she wrote. "Pig organ meat (offal) has the highest levels of nandrolone."

Houlihan added that the levels of nandrolone in her body were consistent with other studies of people who had eaten pig offal. She sent a hair sample to toxicologists, who found that there was no build-up of nandrolone in her body, which there would have been if she had been taking the steroid regularly.

Still, WADA declined to let her take another test. "Nothing moved the lab from their initial snap decision," Houlihan wrote. "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."

The Times notes that other athletes have also blamed other substances for positive drug tests: not just food, but also antidepressants and "substances transmitted through sex."

So athletes, bear all this in mind. And do not eat the pork burrito the day of your doping test.

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