Breaking News
More () »

Shelby Houlihan, nandrolone and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic ban explained

The American long-distance runner and record holder was banned for four years after testing positive for the steroid "Nandrolone"

BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — On Monday, we found out American long-distance runner and record holder Shelby Houlihan had been banned from the Olympics for four years after testing positive for a steroid called “nandrolone.”

We heard you all on our Facebook page and website expressing your thoughts on this Houlihan ban. As a result, we went digging for more answers and here’s what we know.

Nandrolone is an anabolic steroid most commonly used to increase muscle mass, making it a performance-enhancing substance, and can also be used to increase the blood count of cancer patients.

So, why was it found in American long-distance runner Shelby Houlihan?

Sports Medicine Fellowship Director at Texas A&M’s College of Medicine Dr. Kory Gill said endurance athletes, such as Houlihan, could utilize the steroid for the side benefit it brings of increased blood cells.

“The more oxygen-carrying capacity in your bloodstream, the more of those cells, the better you’re going to do in the endurance sports,” “Dr. Gill said.

In her statement on receiving the four-year ban, Houlihan claimed she’s never even heard of the drug.

“I had to read it over about 10 times and Google what I had tested positive for.”

Houlihan then goes on to explain she had eaten a pork burrito just hours before her test and that’s where the nandrolone came from…making it a quote “false positive.”

According to Dr. Gill, yes, Nandrolone can be found in pork.

“There’s a study where they tested the hormone levels in the pork products before they were consumed,” Dr. Gill said. “They checked people before and after and it did elevate their level to a testable level. So, it’s not really a false positive because their levels are truly elevated in that situation.”

Dr. Gill says at the end of the day…don’t put anything in your system unless you’re sure what’s in it. 

“If you’re buying products from a quality reputable source, if you’re eating at a quality reputable restaurant, this is not going to happen,” he said. “So it was either very careless on her part or it was intentional.”