Shelby Houlihan: Overcoming The Adversity Of An Unjust Doping Violation And Reflections On Elite Track & Field Racing


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By Brad Kearns. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

I’m pleased to welcome Shelby Houlihan to the show, one of the greatest female distance runners in the world.

Shelby is the American record holder at 5000m and was in 4th place in the 2019 world championships at 1500m. She’s also an 11-time US national champion and an extraordinary competitor, so you will learn a lot from hearing her talk about her training, focus, dedication and development as an athlete. Unfortunately, Shelby did suffer from a pretty big setback that was both highly publicized and extremely dramatic. You will hear the disturbing details of her doping violation—and while Shelby sees it as an ordeal that has helped her grow as a person overall, there was a tremendous injustice heaped upon her by the anti-doping authorities in global sport, which will be revealed in this episode. While it is acknowledged that we have a massive problem in modern sports (one we have had for decades) when it comes to doping and cheating, as you will hear in this show, it is completely undisputed that the ingestion of this banned substance (which was found in mere trace amounts) did not confer a performance advantage—yet she received a four-year long ban!

You will hear the truth about her experience with the legal system, not receiving due process and having to empty her bank accounts to defend herself, and how she has dealt with this challenging situation by using it as a way to grow as a person and learn how to remain positive regardless of external circumstances.


Shelby Houlihan, today’s guest, will be talking about her career and also how the anti-doping organizations disrupted her career. [01:17]

On the road to being one of the best runners in the world, Shelby hit a major bump in the road, a burrito from a food truck! [06:51]

What are the steps for anti-doping procedures? It is hard to trust the system. [17:29]

People question Shelby’s integrity. She is the one who has the burden of proof of her innocence. [19:32]

All the agencies and all the arbitrators she went before agreed that the amount of this substance did not affect her performance. [31:57]

She felt so helpless through this long ordeal. [36:26]

Are the people who work in the field of anti-doping fair? [41:41]

How does Shelby manage day to day life in this adversity? [44:16]

The hardest part is doing workouts by herself. [55:59]

What is she not allowed to do while under ban? [01:02:06]

What is Shelby’s opinion about the state of competitors cheating? Are people breaking records legitimately? [01:07:02]

This has been a year of personal growth for Shelby. [01:11:51]

Is Shelby confident that she will not be past her prime when she returns and how is she surviving the losses? [01:15:43]


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