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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.

TIMESTAMPS:

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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Brad (00:01:17):
Hi listeners, I’m pleased to welcome to the show Shelby Houlihan, one of the greatest female distance runners in the world. She is the American record holder at 5,000 meters. She was fourth place in the 2019 world championships at 1500 meters, 11 time US national champion and extraordinary competitor. And it’s gonna be great to hear about her training, her focus, her dedication, her development as an athlete, but she also had a tremendous setback that was highly publicized and extremely dramatic and very disturbing to hear the details of her doping violation. So we are going to talk about her ordeal that she’s been forced to reckon with and come to terms with and grow as a person through this tremendous injustice that has been heaped upon her by the anti doping authorities in global sport. It’s acknowledged that we have a massive problem in modern sport.

Brad (00:02:17):
We’ve had it for decades, with doping, cheating, gaining an unfair advantage over your competitors, getting busted, having the athlete deny it left and right, and the public being confused, frustrated, and now, with a very interesting and distinct case, Shelby seems like a victim of the system that has this tremendous vengeance against busting cheating athletes. And so you’re gonna hear a lot of details, but I want to set it up briefly before we even start the show and welcome her that she tested positive for a banned substance, but it was at a very small amount and it was virtually indisputed that she ingested something somehow that brought a trace level of this banned substance into her bloodstream. And, she consequently, uh, received a four year ban after the smoke cleared. And it’s really ridiculous and frustrating when you realize that it’s completely undisputed that the ingestion of this banned substance did not confer a performance advantage yet here she stands in the same, same boat as a confirmed cheater who had, you know, an egregious violation such as with the blood doping, with the drug EPO or getting high levels of anabolic steroids in the system.

Brad (00:03:39):
And boy, she went through the legal system. She did not get her due process. She’s gonna talk about some of those steps where they kept her in the dark. She had to empty her bank accounts of all that money. She worked hard to earn on the running circuit to defend herself, which is kind of ridiculous in itself that you need, uh, massive resources to go against these doping governing bodies. And again, I think the precedent of athletes cheating and lying about it and the public discuss that’s built and built is something that really didn’t serve her, uh, in her own personal case, which has so many different details. So I wanted to bring her on the show to spread more attention to the plight that she’s been through in hopes that we can force change even at the highest levels of sport with how we deal with these things and try to deal with them reasonably and sensibly rather than these open and shut cases.

Brad (00:04:35):
And four year bans. Here she is competing at the top of the her career. But you’re also gonna learn from a very inspiring young lady, how she has been able to deal with this and try to grow as a person and preserve this positive attitude and this wonderful energy that she has saying that she’s happier and more resilient and better adjusted now than she ever has been. And such just so inspiring. I can’t wait till her ban is up because she’s still running hard and she’s gonna relate how she’s done these time trials in private, by herself that are at world class level, which is absolutely extraordinary. When you think about the difference between competing in front of the cheering crowd, against your competitors and heading out to a lonely track turning on the stopwatch and going at break next speed. Like we’ve seen her on all the clips.

Brad (00:05:22):
You can find her on YouTube competing at the highest level of world sport. So, please get to know and follow Shelby Houlahan. You can donate to her legal defense fund, which I think is a wonderful cause. We’ll put that link in the show notes and see what you think, people,. This is gonna be pretty heavy and we’re gonna go on a roller coaster ride of emotions, especially when you watch her YouTube video clip, where she makes her own personal statement after receiving the four year band. If that doesn’t get you teary eyed and frustrated, I don’t know what will. And boy, I’ll also say I recorded this a day after returning from Eugene, Oregon, having a great trip, watching the world track and field championships going on without her wondering what could have been when you watched the great female runners out there off the front, and that she has that type of fitness to be right in the mix with the very best of all time. So it’s a great credit, a great inspiration that she’s able to smile, stay positive and continue with her passion for running. We’re gonna see her in 2025. Can’t wait, but right now let’s get to meet Shelby. Houlahan. Shelby. Houlahan what an honor to connect with one of the great champions of American and world running. I thank you so much for, for coming on. We’re gonna talk about some heavy stuff, but we’re also gonna get to know you and your incredible story and your determination and your accomplishments.

Shelby (00:06:48):
Yeah, no, I, I thank you for having me out. I’m excited to talk to you.

Brad (00:06:51):
So we have this beautiful story of a young athlete in Iowa heading over to Arizona state, breaking records, doing these wonderful accomplishments, you know, pursuing these, these big goals and achieving them. You’re 11 times national champion. Uh, you’ve made it to the Olympic final as a young professional runner.The first USA woman busted some great American records, in the 5,000, um, then in the worlds in 2019, um, you’re right there knocking on the door with the very, very best female runners on the planet. And everything’s looking great. And then you had this bump in the road, uh, that came about earlier this year and, oh my gosh. It’s, you know, it’s, it’s heart wrenching for anyone who cares about sport, because we, we can see, you know, what you put into this and how hard you work every single day and live and breathe running and competitiveness and challenge, and then to have it taken away.

Brad (00:07:55):
It it’s really, it’s really ridiculous, especially, you know, what you’ve had to go through and, and the particulars of your case. And so what I wanna do is kind of share this story so more people can become aware of what’s going on and be an advocate for what’s, right. Not only in sport, but in, in life and due process and legal rights and in the United States of America and all that great stuff we talk about. So, maybe we should start with you had a nice track workout, you went to buy a burrito and then things start to unravel.

Shelby (00:08:29):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, let’s address the elephant in the room, right? Um, no, I mean, yeah, so I mean, the way that day went, I like basically we were gonna watch, I think it was like the Bachelorette that night. So it was like me and a few of my teammates. And, I’ve, I’m like in my off season, I’m, I’m definitely more relaxed. I feel like it’s important for me to feel more like a normal person so that I can like really laser and dial in during the, you know, the main part of the season. So yeah, I was like, I don’t feel like cooking. I’m gonna stop at this food truck. And like, it’s, they have great food. It’s not too far from my house. And it was on the way to, uh, my teammate’s house where we were gonna watch. And so I met, actually met her there at the food truck and we got, we got some burritos to go and went to her house and, or we sat down and ate and watched the Bachelorette and it was great. We had a great night um, and then, you know, fast forward a month later, yeah, about a month later and I received a notification that I had a positive test. Um, and

Brad (00:09:40):
So back up for a second, uh, for, yeah, those who don’t know, um, the athletes who are involved in elite level international running, you are subject to random unannounced year round drug testing, wherever you are, and you have to report your whereabouts at all times, which is an interesting side note, cuz one of our great American athletes got, got busted for not updating the website appropriately, but so you’re on the clock and you’re sort of accessible to knock on the door at any time day or night. And so was it the next morning that someone knocked on your door and asked for a sample?

Shelby (00:10:17):
Yeah. So I ha you, so as you, you’re in two different testing pools, depending on, you know, your success as an athlete and I’m in both of them. So like I have to submit a, um, an hour mandatory, like testing window where I have to be at this place where say am for an hour. Um, and so mine, I always set mine at like 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM and I’ll update it wherever I’m gonna like be that night. Um, or in that morning, uh, time window. Uh, I like to just do it in the morning just because like , it’s kind of like nerve-wracking to have to go to the bathroom in front of someone. So it’s like easier for me to do that when I’m still kind of half asleep. Um, and I’ve gotten a lot better at it as I’ve gotten older and gotten used to it, but it’s just easier for me. I know I’m gonna have to go to the bathroom at 6:00 AM, cuz I’m gonna be woken up by somebody. Um, and so yeah, I, that next morning after, after that Bachelorette, night I got open up at 6:00 AM for a drug, a random drug test and um, you know, gave them the sample, had no problem with it and yeah, then ultimately fast forward a month and I received that notification that I had a positive drug test from, from that test on, I believe it was like December 15th.

Brad (00:11:37):
So it’s an email or something. And then what’s the next step? What are they telling you to do? Or you go for a backup test or, or what’s the protocol then when you, when you get that, that positive sample? .

Shelby (00:11:50):
Yeah. So when you, when you give the sample, you’re pouring it, do you have an, A sample bottle and a B sample bottle and you’re pouring it and

Brad (00:11:57):
You witness yourself.

Shelby (00:11:59):
Yeah. So I’m doing this all myself, when I’m giving the, doing the, going through the drug testing process, I’m pouring, um, urine in both the, A sample and the B sample, you know, securing it and, and so on. And I also got blood taken that day as well. And then, so yeah, once you, once I had got that notification of a positive test, it was kind of like you , I mean, it, I was in shock. I’m like, like, is, am I dreaming? Like what’s going on? I don’t know how I got this positive test. Like, I don’t have an explanation for this, you know, I’m kind of freaking out cause I’m like, what the hell is going on? They must have made a mistake. Like maybe they like mixed my sample up with another person’s or like maybe they did the test wrong.

Shelby (00:12:44):
Like something has to be wrong here. So immediately got on the phone, uh, with my coach and I, you know, I was crying, freaking out. I couldn’t even like get it out for like a couple minutes, cause I just couldn’t control myself. And he was like, are you sure? Like, uh, no, like that has to be a mistake. And I’m like, I don’t, I don’t know what happened. And so he, he was great and he like was like, all right, like it’s gonna be okay, we’re gonna figure it out. I’m gonna, you know, reach out to these people and see like what the next steps are and maybe get in contact with a lawyer. Um, and so like a few hours later, we were in contact with Paul Green, who was who’s my attorney. Um, and so he was kind of walking us through like, all right, we need to make a food log, figure out what you were eating the week of the test. Um, look at like your iPhone locations and trying to like recreate everything that you did and everything you ate and all stuff the week of the test, uh, and then like from, yeah, it’s kind of like, that was our first step. Ultimately it was just trying to recreate that week and see kind like, what was it?

Brad (00:13:51):
So again, for the listeners might not be aware of how this global drug testing, anti doping movement works. There’s a pretty huge list of stuff that you’re not allowed to have in your body. And you guys have a really strong awareness as an elite athlete. You’re obviously staying away from doping protocols that will cause you to get busted and get a four year band. And, um, I think most people can rest assured that the athletes are, uh, by and large. I don’t know. I’m gonna ask you that question of what, what you think the state of global sport is your own sport as well as others, but, um, let’s assume you are a clean living athlete who wants to play by the rules. You’re trying very hard to avoid things that would trigger, uh, positive tests. And so with nutritional supplements and things that are potentially problematic, um, I I’m guessing that you guys are extremely careful with what you put in your body.

Shelby (00:14:49):
Yeah, for sure. And I mean, like, I’m pretty careful, like anytime I’m taking a, a vitamin or a supplement, I’m looking on, there’s a website called like Lobo drill, Globo drill. Um, so you can look at all the ingredients in that and you can, you can make sure like, this is okay. Obviously that’s hard because if it’s contaminated with something that’s not on the ingredient list, you know, like that you’re kind of screwed there. But you know, so I, I’m very careful about everything that I’m putting in my body. I’m not like I’m not really one to, like, I take like three gummy vitamins, you know, like , I, I don’t take a lot of supplements and stuff. I just take like, kind of your basic, I take calcium, a multivitamin, vitamin D and then I’ll take like a B complex and I’ll take iron when I go up to altitudes just to help, um, with those blood levels.

Shelby (00:15:39):
But that’s all I’d ever take. And I don’t, you know, I don’t like protein powders or like, like any other, like I, once in a while I’ll take collagen, but other than that, like, I, I’m not big into protein. I’d rather just like eat it in natural ways. Um, or like, yeah. So for the most part, like a fairly natural person , um, but yeah, and as far as like, uh, meals go, you know, I cook most of my meals and I’m pretty good about having a good diet and, you know, like in my off season, I’m a little more relaxed and I won’t cook like every single day I’ll have like two or like maybe one or two days where I’m like I don’t feel like cooking. I’m gonna go eat out and that’s when I’ll kind of splurge and I’ll like, get a Domino pizza or I’ll like go to a food truck, you know, like just like a normal person would.

Shelby (00:16:31):
And that’s just good for me, for my mental health to just like, mm-hmm, not feel like I have to just be on all the time. And unfortunately, you know, like you see other, I’ve heard other athletes that have, you know, eaten something that has been contaminated or tainted. And it’s just like, I don’t think you really realize that it’s possible. And you’re like, that’s, you don’t think like this might happen to me, you know? Unfortunately, and now that it has, I’m realizing how big of a problem that it is. And, uh, I think it does definitely is something that needs to be addressed. Luckily for those athletes, they were able to prove where it had come from, um, beyond a reasonable doubt. So, and they were dealing with, um, some of them were dealing with USADA and not wa so like, just to be clear, I was dealing with the world anti-doping agency instead of just the us anti-doping agency. Um, and so, and why would that

Brad (00:17:29):
Be, if you’re an American athlete, wouldn’t the first step be USADA stands for us anti-doping agency. WADA stands for world. Um, how did you jump to WADA?

Shelby (00:17:41):
Yeah, so when I got tested on that December 15th test, I actually got tested by AIU which is the athletics integrity unit, which is just a branch of WADA and so, cause I got, so

Brad (00:17:55):
Those two you’re talking about being in two pools was that the US, the, theUS guidelines and US responsibilities, as well as the AIU?

Shelby (00:18:05):
Um,

Brad (00:18:08):
I mean,

Shelby (00:18:09):
Who are the, I’m not sure

Brad (00:18:10):
Yeah. So, so you’re, you’re answering to everybody cuz you’re at the, the most elite level and so knocks on your door, you gotta let ’em in.

Shelby (00:18:18):
Yeah. So it, it could be either organization. So whatever, like if I got tested this morning by USADA, I would only have to answer to USADA that’s their case, that’s their test. But if I got tested by WADA or the AIU< um, I’m dealing with them. I’m not dealing with USADA because it’s their test. So it’s like two different testing organizations that are actually three different testing organizations that are testing you and whatever it’s like their jurisdiction, basically. That makes sense.

Brad (00:18:48):
It makes sense, but it sounds extremely weird and potentially, uh, unfair for the athlete as we’re about to find out. Yeah.

Shelby (00:18:56):
Yeah. Cuz I mean, there, you’re kind of being subjected to different almost like different rules, not like really rules, but like I’ve been told multiple times by, you know, the people at USADA that if this were their case, they wouldn’t have prosecuted it. They would’ve handled it completely different. So like I just got really unlucky that it was the, a AIU and WADA. So it’s just kinda frustrating that it’s not, you know, consistent

Brad (00:19:24):
When you got that first email, did they inform you at that time that it was this particular substance called nandrolone?

Shelby (00:19:32):
Yeah.

Brad (00:19:32):
And then you had to go figure out, you gotta watch your statement. People I’m gonna send you to the YouTube. Um, you’re gonna try not to get emotional watching it cuz it was so heavy and it made me cry. I mean it was just you pouring your heart out and, I have to say, on that note, like you are, you’ve been totally handicapped and hosed by all the athletes that have come before you that have been lying off their asses to protect themselves. And so now we here have someone and if you weren’t believable in that video and all the times that you’ve talked publicly, I don’t know, you know, I don’t know what to think.

Brad (00:20:06):
I’d put my, um, you know, my dog on your case. Uh, that that’s, that’s how much I believe you. Uh, but again, when we’re watching these hilarious press conferences from the old days, like Marion Jones, my favorite, love her as an athlete, but uh, when she confessed and, and she had that, that epic line, what I thought was sports, muscle cream actually turned out to be anabolic steroids. Like, yeah, right. You just improved from you know, 10:09 to 10: 62, in, you know, nothing flat. But anyway, because we have this public perception that’s really disgusted with cheating and all these things that are floating around in, um, you know, the basic fan’s mind, um, you are stepping forward to the camera in this case, um, with a huge handicap and that’s really rough, but as we get further into the details of your case, and we talk about this agent nandrolone and the levels detected and all that stuff, um, I, I can’t wait for you to lay that stuff on you because then it starts to get really ludicrous.

Shelby (00:21:10):
Yeah, for sure. And like, I mean to what you were just saying, I’m, I’m putting, I’ve been put in this horrible position where like you said, people hate cheaters and like, I agree. I absolutely hate people that take shortcuts and like cheat other people out of, you know, records or medals are just like prize money because they’re too selfish to like just work hard. Completely agree with you. But I’ve been putting, put in this position now where like, everything that I’ve worked for is up in, in the air. And it’s a question mark and people don’t, you know, people are questioning my character and my integrity. And like, I’m like, unfortunately there’s been so many athletes before me that have just sat there and lied about it. And like, I, it just takes all of the weight away from like me saying that I’m innocent and on, you know, on my end it’s I think also created a distrust in, in the anti-doping system in itself where now I’m looking at athletes that are saying I’m innocent. And I’m like, I don’t know what to believe now. Like maybe you are, you know, like maybe you’re also being railroaded by this system. And like, I don’t, it’s just like, it’s creating such a distrust for me. And that’s also difficult, you know, I just want to see it done right. And I want to see the truth actually valued in this system. Unfortunately, like when you get a positive test, they don’t have to prove anything it’s on the athlete to say, to like, try to figure out what happened. And if you can’t figure out what happened, then you’re kind of just screwed. You know, like I was kind of like given the task of figuring out where nandrolone came from and like, maybe I’m like super naive with this stuff, but I had never heard of nandrolone before. And so I’m, I’m like reading this positive test thing and I’m like, what the hell?

Shelby (00:22:56):
Like, I don’t even know what this is like, what’s how did this get in my system? Um, and I’m like, Googling, like, can nandrolone be in like meat? Like, is it like another meat, like tainted meat case? And I’m like looking up other athletes that I know have tested positive, I’m trying to like figure out what they test positive for. Um, but ultimately, you know, it’s just like, I’ve been put with the task of trying to figure it out and when you’re starting from nothing and you have no idea where this came from, it’s just like, it feels like this mountain. where you’re just like, all right, like I gotta test all my vitamins. I gotta like test everything that I ate. Like you’re like trying to backtrack and figure out what happened. And, um, yeah, I mean, all the, the only thing that the anti-doping agency has to do is just poke holes in whatever you’re coming up with. And if they can do that well, well enough, then you’re kind of just outta luck if you can’t actually prove it.

Brad (00:23:49):
Yeah. And it seems like there’s the point where we go off track from sensibility and reasonability, because wasn’t it also true that the, the levels detected were infant decimal and agreed by experts that it wasn’t really helping you become a superhuman female athlete.

Shelby (00:24:10):
Yeah. Yeah. So like in that instance, for sure. It’s like, well, that was one of the arguing points I think that had come out was like, my level was two to three times higher than like what you would normally find. And that makes it sound like I have just like steroids coursing through my body, you know? And, um, that’s definitely a biased, um, it’s biased data because if the normal level is, I think at the normal level is like two nanograms per milliliter. And nanograms is a billionth of a gram , it’s very small and mine was five, you know? And then if you actually look at athletes that are taking steroids and whether it’s oral or injections, their levels are typically gonna be in the hundreds, if not thousands of nanograms per milliliters and, you know, mine was five. So it’s just like what? right. I feel like common

Brad (00:25:01):
Twice the normal level. Oh my gosh. It’s like, Hey, the kid peed in the pool. So yeah, exactly.

Shelby (00:25:07):
Um, yeah.

Brad (00:25:08):
And it’s, I mean, let’s get some common ground here. Like it’s undisputed, I’m asking, is it undisputed that this would be no help to an athlete to go from two to five?

Shelby (00:25:21):
Yeah, no, I wouldn’t have no, one’s gonna say that any, yeah, no, it wouldn’t have any athletic performance the only, and I mean, I took a hair sample as well. I, I sent a hair sample over to France to prove that I was clean and there was zero, like absolutely no trace of nandrolone found. So what they could, what they ruled out. It was not an injection and there’s no like residual use. Um, cuz if I was continuing to use it, I would have some buildup in my hair.

Brad (00:25:51):
And so basically you tested, um, you tested clean right before and shortly after as well. Yep. You did another drug test, right?

Shelby (00:25:59):
Yep. Yeah. Okay. And I, that was before I even was notified. So I mean, oh, you had

Brad (00:26:03):
Another test before you were notified.

Shelby (00:26:06):
Yeah, I had, I had tests before and after, um, that drug test and they were both clean. So, so

Brad (00:26:14):
I mean, and, and no one’s gonna dispute that. And so even as you’re mounting your legal defense, it’s clear and obvious that it wasn’t consistent use. There’s no residue left. There’s no performance advantage to have a, a level of five when a doping protocol would be 200 or 500, whatever you said. And so you’re still going into the, the formality of this legal case with all these obvious things. Just kind of floating out there. Like it, it seemingly like you said, the most relevant thing was for you to prove something that was extremely difficult, if not impossible to prove. And that was, it seems. When we’re talking about it, wasn’t a murder case people, it was a, uh, an athletic, uh, you know, doping sample, but I guess, um, you’re just, you’re just faced with this paradox where you’re trying to fight for your innocence on something that’s irrelevant.

Shelby (00:27:13):
Mm-hmm yeah, no for sure. And, you know, we tried and so many different ways to try to prove that I was in a, I took a polygraph test as well. And like that I was, I think it was like 99.98% telling the truth. Like they’re never gonna be like a hundred, you know?

Brad (00:27:31):
Yeah. I saw you blink there for a second. Okay. Yeah.

Shelby (00:27:34):
yeah. And anyone that like sits there and says like, you can just easily pass a polygraph test has never taken one. Cuz those, those are really nerve-wracking and I don’t know how anyone can just trick that. Um, but I certainly like that was my first time ever, even like dealing with that in any sense. And like that was kind of terrifying honestly, but um, yeah, I mean we took the polygraph test. We, hired our private investigator, um, to investigate the food truck that I had eaten at. And that meal was 10 hours prior to that test. And if we’re, you know, really what we were able to find out is that if you’re, basically nandrolone can naturally be found in pig offal which is like, like pig stomach and in test, like just like, um, that kind of stuff. And we figured out, okay, this food truck that I ate at 10 hours prior serves that I didn’t, I personally didn’t order that I ordered a carne asada burrito.

Shelby (00:28:32):
But when I think back and think on that day, it was way greasier than normal. And, uh, I, me and my teammate could not finish that burrito. And like that’s pretty abnormal of us not to be able to do that. It was just very rich. But you know, we were putting salsa on everybody. I didn’t even think like, oh, maybe I got the wrong burrito or anything like that. It just, wasn’t a thought, I just knew that, oh, this is a great tasting burrito. And so I hate it. Um, but yeah, I mean we knew that that food truck served pig offal. Um, and we knew that, you know, when you ingest pig offal the, if it has nandrolone, then the, that level can be at its peak in your body, 10 hours after you eat it. And so like, that was like a coincidence in itself. I ate this 10 hours before this test. Um,

Brad (00:29:25):
So, so you guys are cooking these ideas up and trying to mount a legal defense. Yep. And, um, there was, was there any type of, um, option to, um, have a, have a conversation before the courtroom, so to speak where you said, I have no idea how this stuff got in. I’m gonna go looking around, but can I just say that? I don’t know. And it’s a low level and get a one month band like Carrie Richardson did for smoking weed or is this just locked down that you’re facing a four year band because this trace amount of something is in your bloodstream that you really don’t know for sure how it got in.

Shelby (00:30:03):
Yeah. So like, I don’t, I don’t believe that if I would’ve gone to them and said, Hey, I just don’t know where this came from. It would’ve been any different. I think I still would’ve perceived a four year ban. And in terms of, you know, she Carrie’s like with drugs like that, it’s they’re they actually implemented a new rule, I think, in the last year or so like with drugs that are possible to be addicted. So like marijuana, cocaine, like heroin, like all those types of drugs, you don’t get a four year ban. You get, I think, is it three months or six months ban or something. And then you, if you go through this like class for it, if you get caught, you can, you can take this anger management or whatever, basically like that. Yeah. And like, you can get your band reduced. Um, and I think she got hers reduced to one month and it might be three months I think. Um, so that’s like kind of a whole different ball game, um, as far as her case goes, but yeah, I mean, they don’t have that for nandrolone, you know, it’s, you know, if I, even if I went to them and said like, Hey, I’m not, I just don’t know where this came from, I think they, I still would’ve gotten a four year band for that.

Brad (00:31:11):
Yeah. Now you did have a, um, sort of a, a plea bargain offer that you mentioned of, of swallowing a three year ban instead of four, which yeah, it seems like kind of, in poor taste as a lot of things in the legal system are, and I can, I can, I can see why, um, you turn that down, but now, uh, in, in reflection, realizing the whole thing was so ridiculous and ludicrous and that you’re fighting for your innocence on something that doesn’t even help you, even if you deliberately took nandrolone eye dropper that night, because , you know, it doesn’t matter anyway. Um, what are your reflections now on how the whole thing played out?

Shelby (00:31:57):
You know, I, I definitely, like, I don’t really have any regrets of what happened. Like I just, I felt like we were making the best decisions that we could in the moment. And like, it’s easy to, you know, think back and like, maybe we should have gone this route or maybe we should have done this instead. Or like, you know, I, when I was offered the three year instead of the four a year, like even now even knowing how it played out, I still would’ve done the same thing. I’m, you know, like, cuz the three year would’ve put me in for the next Olympics. I would’ve been able to do the 2024 Olympics and I would’ve saved every, like all of the money that I’ve spent trying to defend myself and I, that for me, me that just like when they offered that and that’s protocol, I think they typically do offer that to athletes.

Shelby (00:32:45):
Um, it just wasn’t an option cuz I felt like, you know, I have to stay true to myself. I did not, I did not intentionally take anything. So I’m not gonna admit to something that I didn’t do. That’s just off the table for me. Um, you know, I’m definitely someone that values integrity. I’m not gonna lie and say that I did it and just to take, get a reduction on my ban. If like that was the way it went. And um, yeah, I mean, I feel like we did everything that we could. It just didn’t work out in our favor unfortunately. And we, I had to, you know, typically the way these things go is you, I would’ve had a trial with the AIU cuz they’re the ones that tested me. And then if I lost that trial, then I would go, I could appeal that and I could go to the court of arbitration for sport.

Shelby (00:33:39):
Um, and I could have another trial there. And then if I lost that, then I could go to the Swiss federal tribunal to appeal. And basically what happened when I was notified, we were sending the, AIU all of our information and like, Hey, this is the polygraph test. Here’s the results to that. We got the results back from testing, all the burritos and all my vitamins and everything. Nothing really came back in our favor, but here’s all the results on that. And like here’s the hair sample and we just kind of, they never responded really to anything that we asked. Like we were like, all right, what’s the timeline? Is there, like what’s the next steps kind? And we just kind of met with silence for, I got notified in January 14th. And for, for, until like, may we, they just weren’t responding to us.

Shelby (00:34:35):
I can’t compete cause I’m provisionally suspended for this right now. And so it’s like, what are we supposed to be doing? Like, and we tried to appeal the provisional suspension so that I could compete while this was happening. They wouldn’t respond to it. They just were ignoring us. So we were like we just need to like go straight to the court of arbitration for sport. So I didn’t even get the first trial with the AIU because they weren’t responding to us. We just for went that and we went straight to CAS, um, which is a quarter of petition for sport and went straight to CAS and did our trial with them. And we did a three panel. Uh, so there’s like three, you know, judges, I guess you could say, um, or arbitrators and we presented our case and it was two to one ultimately, so yeah. Oh boy needed one more person.

Brad (00:35:31):
That’s not a lot of numbers there.

Shelby (00:35:33):
Yeah.

Brad (00:35:33):
Yeah. And again, like, um, you know, I guess I’m, uh, I would call myself a casual track fan over the last decade now getting pretty serious after all, all the, all the great action and especially like digging into your case where, you know, I want to learn more about this. I was competing as a pro triathlete for nine years subject to the, uh, the drug testing and, you know, the early stages of drug testing, no one woke me up at my door, but we knew they would be there at the races. And interestingly in my, in my time in the late eighties and early nineties was, um, the heyday of doping in many sports. And, it was interesting because, you know, I competed on the assumption of having a level playing field. And then it turns out that this guy here and that guy there, um, would get popped and, and most, very likely to be guilty because again, this was the early days where, um, people were experimenting with doping and winning races.

Brad (00:36:26):
And it, it seems like a lot cleaner and more streamlined now. But, you know, back to your case that you I’m gonna use quote marks, if you’re watching on YouTube that you lost two to one. What, what the decision was that I read the lengthy thing and they said that there’s no way that the pig meat was tainted. All they’re arguing about is this peripheral idea that you got the, uh, that you got the agent, um, from the, from the burrito truck and ignoring the fact that as an athlete, it had no bearing on your performance. And so that’s kind of the ridiculous part that we’re facing here. Just like you’ve said on, in public, like tomorrow, some great athlete that we just watched on TV could fall to the same fate of ridiculousness, where something is found in their bloodstream that didn’t help their performance, which is what the whole anti doping movement is all about. Um, and now you’re sitting here with a four year ban, right alongside in the call room with the people that had hematocrits at 57 and told an elaborate lie about how, you know, they were dehydrated or whatever, ridiculous thing that they’re coming up with when it’s clear, they cheated their asses off trying to win a gold medal via shortcut

Shelby (00:37:42):
Mm-hmm . Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s, yeah. I think it’s just like really frustrating to have gone through this, especially like, I just feel very helpless and, you know, like I, it’s more like, what, what do you need from me? Like anything that I could do, I would give it to you to like, try to prove this. But, and the way that I thought the, the anti-doping process worked was like, I mean, from the get, from the get go, as soon as we found out it was just like, it’ll be okay, they’ll figure it out. Like I’ve done nothing wrong. So they’ll, they should be able to see that and everything should be fine and this should be over and, you know, a couple months hopefully. Um, and it just wasn’t at all what I thought it was. And, you know, we were set with the task of trying to figure out what it was and like, you know, I was like, you know, they’re gonna come in and like investigate my life and like figure out everything and nothing happened. And I was just like, like, what’s going on? You know, I would’ve felt better if they had come in and like FBI forensics, like go through my phone, go through my web searches, like everything, go through my bank statements, just like do something and like nothing happened. And so, like, I think that was like the most frustrating part too, is just like, it wasn’t at all what I thought it was. And, you know, right. I

Brad (00:38:59):
Mean, uh, a real doper is gonna be Venmoing their drug dealer and all, all kinds of stuff

Shelby (00:39:04):
Found out mean, come on. I, yeah, I’m sure it’s hard to like really like get people, you know, I’m sure they’re very careful, but like, I don’t, I just felt like if you just tear my life apart, like you’ll find nothing. And like, I, I just like would have felt better about that happening than just like nothing. And, you know, I mean, it’s, it’s frustrating that my case, you know, had such low levels where it was possible that this was food contamination. It fell in, in the range of, of that. And it said that in the technical document, like if it’s, you know, less than 10 nanograms and like the 13 Delta C values was in, like, I can’t remember like negative 15 to negative 25 or something, then it is possible that it’s pig offal ingestion. And my ranges were like five nanograms, which is less than 10.

Shelby (00:40:00):
And I think my Delta C value was negative 23, which is between negative 15 and negative 25. So it fell in this possibility that I ingested something and it was just completely ignored. And that was really frustrating. We asked like, Hey, we would like a pharmacokinetic analysis done, um, to prove that this is endogenous, which meaning like, naturally, it’s like from pig offal or like something else, you know, or exogenous, which is like steroids and like inject like stuff like that, like just synthetic. And we believed that the pharmacokinetic analysis would prove that. And when we asked for them to do it, they were just like, no, we don’t have to do that. It’s not required. And so it was just like, it just felt like every single, like every time we felt like, okay, this test maybe will help prove it. It was just like, no, we don’t have to.

Shelby (00:40:53):
And that was really frustrating. Cause I’m like, you don’t value the truth. Mm-hmm like, if it’s gonna give you the truth, shouldn’t you like want that, but you know, if it was, if it did end up being endogenous and like pig offal, then it would the burden would’ve had to be been on the, AIU to prove that I intentionally ingested it and they didn’t want that burden because they already had the positive test. That’s all they needed. Mm-hmm , you know, that would’ve been more work for them if I had, if they had done the test and, um, I don’t think that they wanted to do that work. So I mean, yeah, it’s just like, there’s a lot of things I believe that happened within my case. That just, it’s just not right. Like it’s just the easy way to do things and it’s not the right way to do to do things. And I don’t agree with that at all.

Brad (00:41:41):
So yeah. And again, I imagine everyone working in this career field in the anti-doping realm, I’ve seen these, uh, these public figures like Jeff Nowitzki and Travis Tygard and, um, you know, it’s a tough job. I, I think they’re, um, a certain personality that, that is attracted to that thing, but it, I detected a little bit of, um, sort of this, um, kind of a vendetta type of mentality where they wanted to go and bring down the mighty empire of Lance Armstrong. And of course, they did honorable work and they, they did, um, you know, trying to advance, um, fairness in sport. Uh, but I’m also wondering, I don’t know if, if you pick up any of these vibes where it’s more about like PR, promoting fair sports and looking good and beating these drums saying we are so tough and so strict. And we wake people up at 6:00 AM and we test the crap out of them. And it’s maybe more about that. And maybe with some little ego sprinkled in about how many busts that they had successfully in, in 2021 versus someone who’s fair and reasonable, like a proper representative in the legal system.

Shelby (00:42:54):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think personally having, I can only really speak on my situation, dealing with AIU and WADA and like, in my experience with them, I just didn’t feel like they valued the truth. And like, it was more about just getting the top, like one of the top American athletes, like let’s just bust her, you know, like instead of actually saying, oh, did, is she actually cheating? Like, let’s be thorough here and trying to figure out what actually happened. I think they just kind of got the positive test and ran with it, you know, and as far as like Travis Tygard and like Jeff Nowitzki like, I’ve had conversations with both of them and they’re both extremely supportive of me, like, and, you know, I’ve talked to Jeff as well. And he was like, you know, he helped take down Lance Armstrong. He’s like, I’ve, I’ve been following your case. I looked at your case. I totally believe you. I don’t think that this is right. And, um, yeah. I mean, it’s nice to know that I have at least those people within the anti-doping agency, like if,

Brad (00:43:53):
If they telling me like, believe you, , that’s pretty good. That’s a pretty good letter of recommendation from the ultimate bust king of the planet to say that he believes and supports your case.

Shelby (00:44:03):
Yeah. And it’s like frustrating that they can’t, they like, it’s not within the jurisdiction of them though, you know, I’m not dealing with USADA. And I think if I had been dealing with USADA, this would’ve been much different and that’s really unfortunate. So

Brad (00:44:16):
Then, you have to take a, a big sigh at some point and deal with this devastation and process it as not only a person, but as an athlete. And I’m wondering, you know, how, how that went for you, because what we, what we’ve asked for you to date is this total focus and dedication and this amazing competitive intensity where you are a pretty serious runner. I, you know, I don’t see you smiling and popping, uh, bubble gum when you’re running the last lap of a 5,000 for the American record. And now all of a sudden we’re asking you to kind of back off for a while, uh, take a break, you know, leave your dreams behind. And so how do you process this and how do you wake up the next day? Um, you know, sitting through the ban, for one and just, you know, generally coming to terms with everything.

Shelby (00:45:08):
Yeah. I think that’s just really been a huge process for me. Like this has definitely been one of the hardest things. I’ve like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life was just like, I’ve been running since I was five years old, you know, I love, I love the sport. This has been like, the sport has meant everything to me. I respect it. I want it done the right way, and you know, to have everything that I’ve worked for just taken away from me, from people that don’t even know who I am like, , you know, it’s like, that was really hard to be like dealing with this, these anti-doping agency, people that like, I didn’t feel like for valuing the truth. And I’m like, you don’t even know, like, and you’re just taking everything away from me. And I don’t deserve that. You know, like I didn’t deserve to be in that situation. And I didn’t deserve to take, have my career taken away from me and like, have everything that I’ve worked for just had this like question mark above it now. Um, and so that was just like,

Brad (00:46:06):
I mean, there, There are some haters, I guess, putting a question mark on you, do you feel like that’s out there, I’ve also seen a tremendous amount of support and that’s wonderful. We love you Shelby, keep it up, uh, keep fighting all that. But I am wondering about those, um, those haters and everyone’s entitled to their opinion, or to, to attach a question mark, to someone who tested. Yeah. Who tested negative before and after the test of a trace amount of something that doesn’t help your performance, but how do you process that kind of attention from people that are, uh, misinformed unfair and whatever you want to call ’em? Stupid?

Shelby (00:46:44):
Yeah. Whatever that’s, that’s yeah. That’s definitely been a process for sure. Cause you know, like last year when this, like this happened, I learned that I was banned for four years last summer, last like June, um, I think it was like June 11th and um, you know, I think right away the amount of support that I got from people was like, cuz that was like the biggest like terrifying moment for me was like, everyone’s gonna think that I cheated. And like, everything that I worked for is just like gone and um, and like being able to like, see how much people were like, this is BS, you know, like there’s no like the, the amount of support that I received was helped so much. And like people were reaching out and texting me and sending me Instagram messages. And like, it was honestly like very, it, it was so helpful. And I do think there are a lot of supporters and it’s just like the, the haters have they just like really wanna be loud, you know? So like I have gotten a lot of like really horrible messages and like people constantly, you know, commenting on my Instagram and saying terrible things and like, you know, like just admit it already and like all this stuff, I’m like, you don’t understand, I’m telling the two, like there’s nothing to admit. Oh. But

Brad (00:48:07):
Again, I mean, I’m, I’m, I don’t, I don’t wanna sound like, um, a stick here, but admit what I mean. Yeah. Yeah. If you took an eye dropper full of level five nandrolone, going from two to five, what of it? And that I think that’s part of needs to get out.

Shelby (00:48:24):
Yeah. And if I had like, yeah, I should admit that, you know, and like I’m definitely someone, I, I like worked so hard on, you know, growing myself as a person, not only as an athlete, but also as a person I’ve been in like therapy the last couple years. And I’m just like, I enjoy trying to make myself the best version of myself on the track and off the track. And like, I’m definitely someone that if I should take accountability for my actions, I completely believe in that I believed to owning up to your mistakes. And like, if I had done something, made a mistake, made someone feel a certain way, I’m fully responsible for that. I have no problem taking responsibility and trying to learn from that. But like, that’s not this situation, you know, I didn’t, I don’t, I didn’t make this mistake, you know?

Shelby (00:49:11):
Um, and so like, I think that’s frustrating for people to like, just assume that I did. And like, I don’t know, people can be really mean. And I think that was also just, uh, it was a process to get through actually, when I first, um, announced that I deleted my social media, I gave my password to my sister and I was like, just kind of monitor this. And if there’s any like good, really good messages, would you mind sending them to me so I can like, feel good about everything, you know, mm-hmm um, but I didn’t look at any really negative things. I didn’t like get back on social media until like probably three months later, which was great for me. Like I, I needed to process how I was feeling and I didn’t need other people’s opinion on that yet. So, you know, it was just a process, ultimately it just like, felt like this huge, like I just was going through this loss of everything and like grief and sadness and anger and just like so like helpless.

Shelby (00:50:13):
Um, and it’s, it’s definitely been a huge process to have to go through all that and feel all of it and felt really overwhelming. I didn’t even go and see my family right away, cuz it just like, it felt like when I saw them, it would just make it real. And so like, and I know they were dealing with it and I didn’t need to handle their emotions as, as well as mine. So we, I actually with, uh, my friend, like my boyfriend now we went in, I have a VW bus in the garage, a 71 VW bus. So we hopped in that and we just road tripped for like 6,000 miles that summer. And, um, we did spend like a month and a half with my family. But we took our time getting there and like we’re pro I was processing through my emotions and trying to deal with everything.

Shelby (00:51:05):
And um, yeah, I think ultimately that was probably the best thing that I could have done for myself. And like, it was still really difficult. And like even when we got back from that trip, I still, like I ended up, I broke up with him cause I was like, I just, I need to figure out how to make myself happy. You know, I took time for myself and tried to figure out, um, you know, how to, how to be okay with what happened, and try to continue to find joy even without running. Um, and I’ve definitely feel like I’ve, I’m in a good spot now and I actually feel a lot stronger than I did even before. I’m like so much happier and like feel so much more secure and stable within myself and like finding happiness within myself. And um, yeah, I think it’s definitely made me stronger and that’s kind of how that stuff goes, right? Like adversity just kind of makes it can either make you or break you. And I definitely feel it did break me at times, but I feel a lot stronger having gone through everything.

Brad (00:52:09):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you don’t want this to turn into an eight year ban, you know, the double, the significance of also breaking you emotionally. I like that. And it’s easier said than done. Yeah. And so you’ve done that hard work and I wonder, um, you know, lacing up your shoes and going out for a run under different circumstances. Um, you you’ve loved running since you were five years old. I’m sure you still have an inherent love, but that was probably also something that was super difficult to process, uh, when you’re not needing to knock off certain times or facing an impending, uh, you know, major global meet.

Shelby (00:52:45):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, when I initially like left for my bus trip by like, I packed like some running stuff, but I’m like, I’m, I don’t even like, that’s the end of my career. Like I don’t wanna run anymore. I’ve lost all trust within like the agencies governing this sport and like, I just felt so bitter and angry. Um, and I just wanted to walk away from it. And then like, I think it was like three weeks and I was like, I wanna run again. you know, like I was just like, I, and that was the longest break that I’ve taken in like 10 years or so, uh, it was like three weeks off. Um, and it, it was great to like, kind of, of take that mental break, cuz I’d never really had done that to that extent. Um, and yeah, I just like, as time went on, it was more, it became more about like, you know, what, they can’t take running away from me.

Shelby (00:53:38):
Like they may be able to take, um, my running racing opportunities away right now, but like they can’t take this sport away from me. And so I’m gonna continue to run. I’m gonna do it for myself. And like that felt empowering for me to like, decide like, you know what, like screw on. I’m gonna, I’m still gonna keep running at least. And like, they can’t take away my love for this sport. Um, and so yeah, I, I could started running again. I continued to run, I started doing workouts in like October and I trained through this last year. Um, and I did everything by myself. Um, and it was really difficult. It was definitely the learning curve to have to go and do everything alone. Um, you know, like I had made a post recently, actually I was like, I, when I initially started working out again, I was like, I’m gonna get so fit this year. I’m going, you know, break rec, I’m gonna run, I’m gonna break 14 in the five K I’m gonna break three 50. Like, I don’t care. I’m gonna do it for myself. Like I just like had this like vengeance. I’m like, I’m gonna run so fast. And as time went on and I was doing workouts by myself, it just like, it’s

Brad (00:54:49):
Tough, man

Shelby (00:54:49):
It was hard, you know? And those, those ex are like goals, I guess, adjusted very quickly. I was just like, uh, I’m just gonna be happy with whatever I can do this year. You know, um, I

Brad (00:55:04):
Used to work this high school kid who ran, um, two minutes point something in the 800, seven times and never to break two. And after the section meet, he, his season’s over. He says, well, you pace me. I gotta do it. I’m in great shape. Let’s go to the track. And I said, dude, you got no chance, it it’s gonna be so much harder. And so, you know, I, I took him through the first lap and he did like a 2 0 4 or something. And I’m like, you know what, that’s an awesome individual time versus a screaming stadium. And so even, I mean, you’ve put up some fantastic, uh, ti and we should, we should clarify that, you know, you’re not allowed to even compete in the, in the most minor meet because you’re gonna, that that’s part of your suspension. And so we’re talking about Shelby going out for the, for the YouTube invitational, I’m gonna call it and just, and just doing a solo effort, which is extremely difficult. And you still put up world class times, which is stunning.

Shelby (00:55:59):
Yeah. And that was like so hard within itself, right?. Is like even the workouts going, I think that’s been the hardest part for me is like doing workouts by myself. I get, I don’t know a lot about running actually. Like the logistics of it. Like, I don’t

Brad (00:56:16):
Know. Let’s call that as a cool quote for the show. Here’s Shelby Houlih,an American record holder. I don’t know much about running per se, but I just go fast. I do what the coach says, come on.

Shelby (00:56:27):
It’s that’s like, actually what I do though, like, I don’t really know what workouts mean. I like I just run. And like, I put all my trust in my coach and I know he’s one of the best coaches in the world. And so like, whatever, he says, whatever pace he says, I’m like, all right, let’s do it. I’m ready. And I love the challenge of workouts. I love killing myself and dying on the track. So it’s just like, I will get the most outta myself every day if I can. Um, and whatever that is. But, um, yeah, I don’t, I, because of that, like, I get so much information running with other people, um, running with my teammates because then I can gauge like, how easy is this? Or how hard is this for them? Like, like, I, I just get a lot of information and that’s how I get my confidence going into races is just like gauging how other, like, just training with other people.

Shelby (00:57:23):
And so when I had to do that by myself, I wasn’t getting any information and I don’t know what these workouts mean. And so I had just no confidence in myself going into some of these time trials. And that was something that I had never had to deal with before. Um, you know, I’ve always been like very confident in like my abilities to go do things and it just wasn’t there. And, um, and that was really hard. And it was really, it got really lonely. Um, you know, I doing everything alone at that level was just like, it’s, everything is hard, you know? And like, you can’t just check out for a rep and like run behind someone else. You know, it’s just like I had to be on. And then like half the way through, I stopped working with my coach. So I don’t even have, anyone’s holding a stopwatch.

Shelby (00:58:13):
I’m just out there by myself. No one else is there. And, um, just trying to, you know, get like clock off splits, I guess. And it was hard and I definitely had my fair share of workouts where I had to stop halfway through. And I’m just like, I’m done, I can’t do this today. And that’s never happened before. like, I’m, I’m pretty gritty. I’m like, I’m gonna finish this workout, even if it sucks. Um, but you know, I just, that was really hard. I was having workouts where I wasn’t running well and, um, they just felt harder than they should. And, um, it was really hard to gain confidence going into some of those time trials. So even going into them, I was just like, you know what? It is, what it is. I’ve done everything that I could up until this point. Um, and whatever that time is, is whatever it will be. Um, and that’s fine, cuz it doesn’t matter anyway, so, I mean on that end it was like nice that they don’t matter. And like it’s just, it is what it is. It took a lot of pressure off, but at the same time, there’s that part of me that’s like I wanna break for, you know, like just have really high expectations for myself when I also had to kind of learn to adjust those as well.

Brad (00:59:27):
Well, I mean, that’s the, um, I guess part of this could be the central governor theory at work, Dr. Timothy Noakes where he proposes that the brain is the ultimate arbiter of fatigue. Oh yeah. Not the peripheral it’s, it’s not really that your muscles got tired in the home stretch. It was that your brain was slowing you down to protect you from, you know, the a hundred degree heat on the track or whatever. And in your case, you’re not able to play off all the external variables and motivators, which would be your teammates in a workout or your competitors in the race. And so, um, I think you’re like transcending, what’s competitive sport into this, this individual experience, which is, I, I wonder if, you know, if this has ever been done on a, on an elite level, it’s an amazing experiment. You should have some PhD students out there going, okay. Um, what can this, what can this girl do by yourself? I mean, it’s, it’s like there there’s, there’s no precedent for it.

Shelby (01:00:20):
Yeah, no, it’s, it is really hard. And like, I’m really proud of what I built, what I have been able to do by myself. Um, I haven’t, I haven’t run the times that I like really wanted to, I, I really wanted to break four this year and I was like, so I ran 4 0 1. I was like really close and I knew I had more in there. Um, by just so

Brad (01:00:37):
Listeners, this is the 1500 meters she’s talking about. And these are international caliber, elite times that could win a diamond league meet and so forth. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s really, it’s, it’s astonishing that you’re able to do that by yourself. And so I’m, I’m gonna give you a lot of credit for getting, not anywhere near, I mean, the other six seconds that you’re off your PR, whatever is entirely attributed to the, the screaming crowd in the stands and, I think, competitors,.

Shelby (01:01:06):
Yeah. yeah. That’s where I’ve had to adjust the expectations, cuz like that my mind doesn’t work that way. I’m like, if I’m in shape around 3 57, I’m gonna fricking run 3 57. I don’t care if there’s no one in the stands. Like I’m gonna get this out of myself. And so having to adjust those expectations was like pretty difficult. I was just like, all right. Yeah. There’s no one here. Like I just have like one person holding a stopwatch, like, all right, it’s fine. I like, I’m happy with that. I did everything I could, but like, yeah, it’s hard to like accept that. I’m I think I’m in 3 57 shape and it’s just not happening. And that’s really frustrating for me. Like, there’s just like, I can’t switch that off. Um, and I’m really good at getting the most outta myself. So it’s just like, I completely agree with you on the governor thing. Like I definitely believe running is 90% mental. Um, and I’ve, I have a, I’m really good on the mental side of things typically, but this year has definitely been the most challenging in, in terms of that. So,

Brad (01:02:06):
Well you reminded me of that Yogi Berra quote, the, the famous baseball guy. He said, um, um, baseball’s 90% mental, and the other half is physical. He was the master of all these malaprops. But yeah, you, you basically, you, you set a world record for a, a 1500 meter time trial. I don’t think anyone’s ever gone faster by themselves. but, um, in terms of your, you know, the guidelines that you have to adhere to during your, your suspension, you can’t officially train with other, um, international runners. Is that, is that true or what are you allowed to do and not allowed to do if you, if you happen to, uh, bump into a group of elite female athletes, doing a track workout, could you jump in or would they, uh, would they frown upon that kind of thing and same with the coach and what kind of relationships can you cultivate and how can you, uh, train according to guidelines?

Shelby (01:03:05):
Yeah, so like, I’ve been really intentional about trying to figure out what I can and can’t do. Cause I do wanna keep running and I just wanna, I don’t wanna do anything that’s gonna, you know, restart my ban by any means. So I’m like, Hey, like I need to know the rules. I wanna do everything the right way. Cuz like, yeah, I don’t, I don’t want anything to happen. So from my understanding and what they’ve told me which is a little frustrating, cuz you know, they always tell you in like these lawyer terms where I’m like, what does this even mean? but um, from my understanding and what they’ve said, it’s, you know, I can’t work out. I can’t go to like a official like scheduled practice. I can’t work out my teammates because they’re Bowman track club is part of, it’s USATF affiliated club.

Shelby (01:03:49):
Um, and so I can’t work out with them, but you know, if I go and see people out on a run, that should be fine because like, you can’t like just keep me from running with my friends, you know? Um, and they’ve said that that’s fine as well. I just can’t go to like a official practice. Um, and even like for at least time trials, I can’t have a USATF athlete, pace me or anything like that. So I, as far, like I just really have to stay away from, uh, like USATF affiliations, like national affiliations. And even if it’s like a kid that runs, and he’s just a part of the USA triathlon, like, like I, he can’t even do that. Like, it’s just like no national affiliation. So it definitely like diminishes the pool of possibilities that people that I can work out with and like, you know, can help.

Shelby (01:04:43):
But as far as like the coaching goes, I, for a while, I was, um, still having my, the same coach, um, Jerry and I was just paying him separately as an individual athlete. And we got that. Okay. That was fine. Um, well, unfortunately, you know, like some things happened and about halfway through this year, we decided maybe it’s just best just cuz everyone’s kind of freaking out about every little thing and it’s just best if we just kinda, you know, maybe you don’t coach me anymore and I go and do my own thing. Cause I just, I think the hardest part about this whole thing is like, it doesn’t just impact me. You know, it impacts everything that everyone that is associated with me and that’s, and you know, I know my teammates have got a lot of criticism and like questions about their performance and like, I just, it that’s definitely the worst part cause it’s just like, that’s not fair and they don’t deserve that. I didn’t deserve this in the first place, but they certainly don’t deserve that. Um, and um, so I it’s, it’s definitely been hard to navigate and I, I, I don’t want this to be a negative, like have a negative impact on, on my teammates. Um, and my friends, I want the best for them. You know, I don’t want them to deal with this.

Brad (01:06:04):
It, it smells like this is a, a, a spill off from the oil spill of, for example, Alberto Salazar’s case that was first, um, brought out where he was messing with prescriptions and 80% of the athletes were on, um, uh, asthma medication or thyroid medication. And, um, you know, were just dancing around the rules and that you guys were based in Portland, right? Uh mm-hmm same area. So it seems like, again, you’re, um, tainted by association with ridiculousness that preceded you and, and you and your teammates, um, are, all of you’re doing is breaking records and promoting clean sport. And in your case, paying the price for that tremendous dedication to clean sport. But I, I certainly I wouldn’t spend too much energy on that. And if there are haters out there, um, after listening to the show, I think they’ll be set straight that, um, we’re, we’re talking about a completely different issue than actual doping and cheating in elite sport.

New Speaker (01:07:02):
But I guess now that I mentioned that, where do you think we stand now when we’re watching the Worlds or the Olympics in terms of cleanliness, microdosing of EPO and the things that we’ve learned about from the incredibly tainted sport of professional cycling, are people breaking records legitimately or do we have a, still a little bit of, uh, cleanup to do and, um, necessary suspicion?

Shelby (01:07:27):
You know, I just, I don’t know at this point, you know, I I’ve the way I’ve kind of operated throughout my career. I know that there, like there are people that are probably doping. I just don’t, I’d rather be naive to it personally and not think about like, are my competitors cheating? Like maybe I think they maybe are, or like, cuz then I feel like if I assume that they are, it’s almost giving myself an excuse to not beat them. Um, so I just don’t think about it. I’m just like, you know what, at the end of the day I have to go out there and I gotta try to beat them regardless. Mm-hmm and I’m not gonna like assume someone’s cheating if I don’t know that, like that’s not my place to judge that. Um, and so I try to treat everybody the same and like everyone’s clean. I try not to like really put a lot of judgment into that and not only for them, but also for myself, cuz I, I wanna get the most outta myself and I don’t wanna waste energy thinking about that, I guess.

Brad (01:08:27):
Um, yeah, that’s a good Shelby. I, I felt the exact same way because when these suspicions started to arise in our sport, I believed it was necessary to become naive or oblivious to it because otherwise you’re giving up a handicap at the starting line looking over and going, this person, uh, looks like they’re in superhuman form. However, then I had to process the reality that, uh, around me, this, this, um, people were stealing money out of my wallet by cheating in sport. And I know that some of your peers, whatever you wanna call ’em some other elite female performers have spoken out or, uh, felt differently and been more demonstrative about let’s say accusations or whatnot. And, and some wondering, like behind that answer, if there’s anything more there, when you’re looking at a female breaking the world record in your event and dropping a 1 56 coming home, which is good enough to win a gold medal in 800 meters in most Olympic games. And she does that after running a couple lap at a high speed. Um, and you’re, you’re knowing that these records that are broken, uh, or breaking records from the rampant dumping era of the East Germans in the eighties, um, I’m personally gonna, uh, raise my eyebrow a little bit, but I always like to give the athletes a benefit of the doubt, but at your level, I’m wondering it has to float in there at times when you are giving your heart and soul to the sport and potentially getting cheated.

Shelby (01:09:56):
Yeah, no, I mean kind of exactly what you said. I definitely have those moments where it’s like, kind of questioning it. I’m like, oh, I don’t know. Like, and it’s, it’s hard to watch things like that where it’s like, I don’t think I could do that. And, but then I’m like, you know, just because I can’t do it doesn’t mean someone else can. So I’m like, I also like try to remind myself, like, don’t like, you don’t know don’t judge it. Um, there’s, you know, there could very well be more talented people than you and like capable of some something greater. Um, and so like, just because you can’t doesn’t mean they, they can’t. But you know, that it definitely, there’s definitely times where there is a question mark in my mind, I just try to kind of like let it float through, and not put too much weight on it, but it is it’s sometimes some of these performances it’s, it’s hard to completely believe them.

Shelby (01:10:48):
Um, and, but, you know, but at the same time, I’m like, I, I want to, because then it’s making the sport better. And like, if they’re running faster times, then it’s gonna make me run faster times. And like, even if maybe they’re not doing it the right way, I know I’m going to. And so like if they get caught or whatever, and like, you know, like just for example, me getting fourth place in Doha, you know, and like I laid it all out there. I know I did it the right way. And like, I hope if anyone was cheating at all, like I, that they could get, they would get caught and like, then I could get upgraded to a medal. And like, it sucks that that moment would’ve been taken away from me in that, at that time. But you know, I, I try not to really put too much stock into thinking about it and thinking in that way, I just wanna hopefully try to believe that everyone has the same morals. Um, I know that’s really naive thinking and that’s probably not true, but for me, that’s just the way I try to operate ultimately.

Brad (01:11:51):
Well, I mean, you’ve also had to learn this major life lesson that you would probably absorb when you turn 60 or something where it really is all about the process. And I talk about this on my podcast a lot, cuz my, my triathlon career has now, um, you know, it was 27 years ago that I retired. And so my race results are in a Manila folder in the back of this file cabinet here, just off camera and I could pull the race results out and go, oh yeah, Phoenix. I crushed those guys. That was my best 10 case, but you know, all that stuff, but it literally resides in the back of a file folder. And it has the, the only significance it has in my life now is, is what I make of it or the lessons that I learned. And so it was, it was 99.5% about the process.

Brad (01:12:36):
And then the other part was, you know, winning the medal and promoting the crap out of it on social media 27 years later. So I can get a blue star as an official, you know what I mean? Like you’ve, you’ve been forced this down your throat against your will and it is, um, you know, it’s a tragedy, but I, I love your statement earlier where you said, you’re now a happier, more secure person than you’ve ever been. And I am wondering, of course, you have to be resilient to overcome this, this, this difficulty, but also, um, removing that gripping pressure and all those judgments that we place on athletes maybe is a portal for personal growth because when you’re in it and the clock’s on you all the time and people are staring at you all the time and looking at the clock, you don’t have that same opportunity for enlightenment and personal growth because you’re basically a number

Shelby (01:13:30):
Mm-hmm . Yeah, no. And you know, I think personally I’ve done a great job about doing this for the process. I love the process. I love the whole process.

Brad (01:13:42):
You’ve proven it girl,

Shelby (01:13:43):
One time trial

Brad (01:13:45):
Who doesn’t love the process. That’s gonna go out there and knock yourself out to that level. Oh my gosh.

Shelby (01:13:50):
Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, the process this year has probably been the most, not fun that it’s ever been, but, but like, you know, at the end of the day, I don’t think that it should be about the medals or records or times or whatever the places you run. It’s just like, I just want to do something that I love and enjoy and are able to put my energy towards that. Uh, I, I wanna, you know, be at the end of my life, knowing that I just did all the things that I love to do. And so that’s way more important to me than getting medals or, you know, records or whatever that is. But like, they’re obviously like great too. Like I enjoy proving myself and like being able to like have those opportunities to show myself and everyone that supports me, like this is why I do the process.

Shelby (01:14:39):
Like this is like the cherry on top, but at the end of the day, you know, it’s, it’s not about that. And it’s about enjoying what I’m doing and I’m trying to still enjoy what I’m doing right now, even though it’s a lot of the fun parts about it. And a lot of the things that I enjoy about it, like going out and being able to goof around and run with my teammates and my friends and like goofing off with my coach and like, you know, like listening to his, all of his stories before the track workout starts, like going on fun, cool downs, like it’s just, it’s a lot more lonely and a lot of those fun parts about it are not there and that’s, that’s been really hard and I’ve had to learn how to find other things that are fun and make it fun. Um, but it’s definitely a work in progress. Um, but yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, it’s still something that I love to do and I’m looking forward to, at some point, being able to come back and show all of the work that I’ve been able to put in the last few years or last, I guess year or two, um, when I haven’t been able to show it,

Brad (01:15:43):
Do you believe in the odometer theory as applied to, for example, NBA basketball, where you know, clay Thompson missed two years in his prime, he didn’t play a single game. So now he’s 29 instead of 27, but guess what? He was on the sidelines, he wasn’t getting beat up. And on the flip side, like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant started playing in the NBA at age 17. So they have this, this number of miles on their odometer. Even at age 33, they’ve been playing in the NBA for 17 years rather than 12 or whatever, uh, another person would be. And, you know, relating back to that central governor theory, you’re working hard you’re training, but at, uh, on another level, you’re not subjected to this, this, this brutal psychological and physical stress that characterizes the career of an elite athlete. So I’m curious if you have that hopefulness or that ideal that whatever your chronological age is when you return to the track, you can pick things up and go for however long you want at the highest level without regard to Shelby’s 32. Now she’s gonna be past her prime for a 1500 meter runner.

Shelby (01:16:54):
Yeah. And I think like, I definitely think there’s too much emphasis put on, on the odometer thing, you know? Um, I, I do think that I’m gonna be able to hopefully come back, you know, when I’m 32 and, and keep running well, because the way that I’ve evolved and trained since I was young, like I didn’t start running mileage until like my first year as a professional. And even my first year as a professional, I was only running like 60 miles a week. So it’s like as comparing to other distance runners, I’m still very young. Mm-hmm , um, I’ve just always had a natural engine, so I’ve never had to do a lot of mileage. And I was always just focused on the speed aspect of training. I was trying to get the most outta myself, get the most power. Um, and like, even through college, you know, my freshman year of college, I was running 30 miles a week and I

Brad (01:17:48):
Titles.

Shelby (01:17:49):
Yeah, well, I didn’t wanna title my freshman year, but like even when I did win a 1500 title, my junior year, I was only running 50 miles a week and I placed ninth cross country. You know, like I wasn’t doing a lot of miles. I just naturally have a good engine. Um, and so that was the biggest thing that I wanted to focus on as a professional was like, okay, I need to really keep building this aerobic base. And once I do, I’m gonna be able to use all the speed that I’ve worked on and kind of combine them. And that’s why, when you’ve watched me race, I have this amazing kick, the last 200, cuz I’m finally strong enough to use it. Whereas like before I just haven’t, I just wasn’t strong enough yet. Um, and you know, I even, even my first year as a professional, I was able to make the Olympic final in the 5k running 60, 65 miles a week.

Shelby (01:18:43):
And now that I’m running more around 85 to 90, that’s why you’re seeing these jumps in my, in my progression of my times, because I’m finally getting stronger and stronger and stronger and I still have things to work on. Um, so like this last year, um, I’ve definitely cut back that mileage. I’m more around like seven 60 to 70, um, just trying to save my body. I’m still doing the work, but I’m just trying to like still be conscious of not just beating up my body, um, so that I can come back when I’m 32 and still maybe have the body of like a 29 year old or something, or

Brad (01:19:25):
Super a super strong two year. And I, I realize with the dates, this is early 2021 when you delivered your sample. So, we’re in 22 now we’re coming up to the halfway point. Time is flying. Yep. We’re gonna see Shelby back. what day are we gonna celebrate January 2025?

Shelby (01:19:44):
I think. Yeah. It’s like January 15th or 14th or something. 2025. Fantastic. It’s hopefully gonna go by just pretty quickly

Brad (01:19:52):
I, I think so maybe some more road trips, I don’t know.

Shelby (01:19:55):
Yeah, definitely a lot more road trips.

Brad (01:19:57):
Before we, before we wrap up, I mean, you were, you were making a good living as a professional runner, you were living and breathing and that was your, that was your essence, your existence, then you had to cough up a lot of legal fees, which is a really strange element of the anti-doping situation where now the athlete is compelled to, um, to, to, to take the burden of proof on. Um, and so as a side question, when I ask you the whole thing, like, what does an athlete do that doesn’t have the resources? It seems like a completely unfair situation. But again, whatever resources you had and I think we can donate to this. Cause if I’m not mistaken on, on GoFund,me we’ll put that link in the show notes. But you also lost your sponsorship. And so I’m wondering from the professional side, like what is that arc like and how are you, um, operating now in terms of, you know, continuing to build on your, on your dreams as a runner?

Shelby (01:20:52):
Yeah, no, I’m glad that you brought that up. Cause that’s been a thought in my head this whole time of like, I’m, I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to get to this point and continued to fight for myself. And like, I mean, transparently, I’ve spent $250,000 defending myself and which is a lot of money. And if you don’t have the resources, like I understand why people take a plea deal and do the three years instead of the four years. Cause they don’t have the money to defend themselves. And like, and then it makes me wonder like how many people that admitted it are actually innocent, but they just were kind of railroaded cause they couldn’t defend themselves. You know? Like I, it’s definitely a problem. And it’s so unbelievably expensive to do that and to defend yourself and go through that process.

Shelby (01:21:39):
Um, like I, I definitely think there’s some needs to be something done in that aspect as well. Um, I don’t really know what that is, but it’s, it’s sad to know that maybe, you know, people that go through this just don’t have the means to defend themselves and they’re forced to maybe accept a plea deal or just, I mean, and that’s a four year ban is a, can be a career ending ban, you know, and then like you’re just forced to just kind of go away. And um, but yeah, I mean that’s, that’s been a huge toll on me financially. Like the GoFundMe I put up has helped so much like truly helped so much. Um, but it’s yeah, right, right now I still had like a little bit some money saved because I was, I went through to the Swiss federal tribunal and I was hoping to win that appeal.

Shelby (01:22:38):
And then I would have to go back to, I think, Cass and like go back to a whole nother trial. And so that’s like even more money. So I mean the positive side of losing that appeal is that I don’t have to spend that money. Um, so I’m right now doing okay, it’s not sustainable. I’m kinda looking for a job right now and just trying to honestly just figure out what else that I love to do. cause I, I want to do something that I love, I don’t wanna spend the next two years, like just hating my life and just like doing something that I don’t like. Um, it’s important to me to enjoy what I’m doing. Um, cause you only have certain amount of time on this planet and I wanna spend it doing the things that I love to do. So that’s really been the process for me is like, all right, what else do I like? What would be fun? Like, I don’t know. Um, and I think you can kind of make money really doing anything. I just wanna make sure that I enjoy doing it so

Brad (01:23:34):
Nice. And then yeah. I think you’ll transition gracefully just like you did from college athlete to professional when your ban is lifted. Um, I’m gonna guess you’re gonna be pretty fit when that birthday cake candle comes. I hope so. And then ready to throw down. So I, I, I can’t wait for that day. Um, and, and so regarding that, that process, is it over, are you just out of recourse? Are we gonna get a new, a new some new officials elected next year where you might, uh, dream of an appeal or a commuted sentence or anything? Or is it just sort of be patient now?

Shelby (01:24:12):
I mean, as far as I know the process is kind of just done. I don’t really have another course of action I’m, you know, I still, like, I still wanna know what happened and I’m still trying to like figure out other possibilities. Like maybe it wasn’t something that I ate. Maybe it was like actually something else. And I just, I don’t know what that is, but I wanna keep trying to figure it out. Cause like, I think that’s another fear is like, I don’t want this to happen again. Yeah. Like what if it wasn’t the burrito? What if it like was something that I took or something. Um, and so I would like to figure it out. I don’t know if that’s gonna happen and if I do figure it out, I don’t know, like, can I get my ban lifted? Like I’m not really sure that course of action.

Shelby (01:24:56):
I just haven’t gotten there yet. Um, but yeah, I think hopefully they’re doing testing maybe to see if this was even possible. Um, I do think it was possible, especially like I know it was unlikely, but also I think it’s important to take into consideration. We were going through COVID at that time and the meat, the meat, like the food chain was all over the place and so messed up. So you’re not dealing with the normal food food chain. It was like, so I think like that in itself, even if this wasn’t likely, that has to impact that significantly, I would assume. Um, there’s lots of articles like even in Oregon or just like across the, um, the US saying that, you know, the meat production is like just kind of broken right now. Like, so, and I, you know, I don’t, I don’t know if that was ever taken into consideration.

Shelby (01:25:52):
But, hopefully we can continue to do testing, maybe figure out the possibility of this or like just implement it in different ways. I think it would be great to personally, like for these low level cases shift the burden of proof so that like it’s both on the athlete and the doping agency or like, and I don’t know, I’m not gonna pretend to know like, this is the thing that we should do. Like this is the right thing. Um, I think it should be more of a conversation where it’s like, Hey, as athletes, like, what do we feel is fair?

Brad (01:26:23):
I mean, it’s like just put some human judgment into the picture and say, was this a deliberate attempt to gain an advantage and cheat out competitors? Or was it some glitch? And the technology is so good now, um, that a lot of experts think, you know, when you’re picking up nanograms, it could be technology flaw, just like the starting blocks kicking racers out on the ostensibly false start. But it’s, it’s just simply, um, you know, a, a more sensitive, machine that’s not perfect.

Shelby (01:26:54):
Yeah. Yeah. I think there’s still like a lot of work to be done. I think there’s definitely some flaws in the system that just need to be updated. And, um, yeah, and I mean, especially like what you were kind of just saying is like, this is such a small amount and it has no like enhancement on my performance at all. So why am I serving a four year ban for that? You know, if like, give me like a one year ban or like something like that. Cause it’s, it’s not doing anything for me. Like I,

Brad (01:27:20):
Yeah. Public service totally

Shelby (01:27:21):
Under,

Brad (01:27:22):
We sent you to a year of community service, coaching, little kids at middle school. Yeah,

Shelby (01:27:26):
Yeah, yeah. But it’s, you know, I, I think it’s ridiculous to have to serve a four year ban, especially for something that I didn’t do. I understand it was in my system and I take responsibility for that. I don’t know how it was, but, yeah, I mean, if I’m not getting the whole point of a four year ban is for people that are getting

Brad (01:27:46):
A deterrent

Shelby (01:27:46):
Enhancement and their performance. And like, if that, if that’s not happening, what’s the purpose of that. Um, so I dunno, I think there’s a lot of things that could be changed and just kind of tweaked, and hopefully we start seeing that

Brad (01:28:01):
Shelby Houlihan, what a great story and tremendous discredit to you for your resilience, your positive attitude, if you’re listening and not watching, she’s smiling through the entire story here, pouring her heart out. And, um, I think that’s what made you a great champion in official competition and setting that world record in the time trial. I’m gonna put that right up there in your career, highlights that it’s so incredible. It’s beyond belief how you can go out and, and carry on by yourself. But I’m just, I’m just counting the months. It’s going by quick. I mean, it’s a blur, but I can’t wait to see you back out there. And also just continuing on this wonderful progress of personal growth that you’re on.

Shelby (01:28:42):
Yeah, no, I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to tell my story and get the word out there. And I’ve had a great conversation with you. So thank you.

Brad (01:28:50):
We can follow you and look at your road trip pictures and the slick retro van on Instagram. Where else should we go, uh, to, to keep up with you?

Shelby (01:29:01):
Yeah, I mean, Instagram’s definitely, I’m, I’m horrible at social media, so I like don’t, I’m not on it all the time, but it’s definitely the best way to kinda keep up to date with what I’m doing. Um, but I have a website clear shelby.com, which has a lot of the information about this case. Um, obviously it’s a little biased it’s in my, like my viewpoint of it. Um, but I do think there’s a lot of good research and like good information there if you want to dig a little deeper. Um, yeah. So those kind of those things,

Brad (01:29:31):
Shelby Houlihan everyone. Thanks for listening. Da da, da, da. Thank you for listening to the show. I love sharing the experience with you and greatly appreciate your support. Please. Email podcast@Brad ventures.com with feedback, suggestions and questions for the Q and A shows. Subscribe to our email list@bradkearns.com for a weekly blast about the published episodes and a wonderful bimonthly newsletter edition with informative articles and practical tips for all aspects of healthy living. You can also download several awesome free eBooks when you subscribe to the email list. And if you could go to the trouble to leave a five or five star review with apple podcasts or wherever else, you listen to the shows that would be super, incredibly awesome. It helps raise the profile of the B.rad podcast and attract new listeners. And did you know that you can share a show with a friend or loved one by just hitting a few buttons in your player and firing off a text message? My awesome podcast player called Overcast allows you to actually record a sound bite excerpt from the episode you’re listening to and fire it off with a quick text message. Thank you so much for spreading the word and remember B.rad.

 

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