The claim: Middle-distance runner Shelby Houlihan tested positive for marijuana
But a post circulating on Facebook falsely compared the positive test for the fiery sprinter with that of another Olympic athlete, middle-distance runner Shelby Houlihan.
It shows a photo of Houlihan holding a medal after a previous competition. Words written over top of the photo say Houlihan also tested positive for marijuana.
The July 2 post has three bullseye emojis, suggesting the photo was spot on. But it missed the mark.
Houlihan tested positive for an anabolic steroid, not marijuana, and she was suspended for four years. She blamed the test result on pork she had eaten in a burrito.
The user who shared the photo did not respond to a request for comment. The post has been shared more than 4,000 times.
Houlihan’s positive test
Houlihan wrote in a June 14 Instagram post that she tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone in December and was informed of the result a month later.
The Athletics Integrity Unit banned Houlihan for four years after her appeal was denied in June.
Houlihan holds the American record in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters and was expected to compete in the Tokyo Games. But her suspension came just before the U.S. Olympic Trials were to begin in Eugene, Oregon.
After receiving news of the positive test, Houlihan said she logged everything she ate leading up to the test and blamed it on pork in a burrito she had eaten about 10 hours before the test. She said in her Instagram post she passed a polygraph test and that a hair sample showed “there was no build up of this substance in my body, which there would have been in if I were taking it regularly.”
Some research has found trace amounts of nandrolone in those who have consumed boar meat or pork.
The Athletics Integrity Unit has not published the full decision on Houlihan’s appeal from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
A poor comparison
The post shared on Facebook tries to draw a parallel between Houlihan’s situation and that of Richardson, who tested positive for marijuana.
“I wonder why you don’t see this story all over the place,” it says. Richardson was suspended for a month and will not compete in the 100-meter dash at the Olympic games in Tokyo. The decision from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency prompted responses from celebrities, talking heads and even President Joe Biden.
Richardson said she used marijuana after learning from a reporter about the death of her biological mother during the Olympic trials.
The case of Richardson is different on several fronts. Richardson is suspended for a month whereas Houlihan is banned for four years. The substances they tested positive for also are different.
Houlihan was suspended before the trials began. Richardson’s suspension came after she had already run at the Olympic trials and qualified for the 100-meter dash, one of the signature track events in the summer games.
Richardson’s suspension will end before the event in Tokyo, but the positive test invalidated her qualifying run.
Richardson’s runs at the trials also helped catapult her to stardom. She pointed to the clock as she crossed the finish line in a semifinal heat and ran into the stands, orange hair flowing, to hug her grandmother after winning the final.
Our rating: False
The claim that middle-distance runner Shelby Houlihan tested positive for marijuana is FALSE, based on our research. Houlihan tested positive for an anabolic steroid in December but claimed it was the result of eating pork in a burrito. Her appeal was denied before the U.S. Olympic trials began in June.
Our fact-check sources:
Shelby Houlihan, June 14, Instagram post
Athletics Integrity Unit, June 15, Tweet
USA Track and Field, accessed July 6, Shelby Houlihan biography
The New York Times, June 15, Did a Burrito Cost an American Runner Her Olympic Dream?
British Journal of Sports Medicine, July 2006, Significance of 19-norandrosterone in athletes' urine samples
Athletics Integrity Unit, accessed July 6, FIRST INSTANCE DECISIONS
The New York Times, July 1, Sha’Carri Richardson, a Track Sensation, Tests Positive for Marijuana
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Olympic hopeful Shelby Houlihan tested positive for steroid