How A Pork Burrito Might Have Gotten This Olympian Banned

The burrito is quite the popular dish around the world, and it's really no mystery why. It makes for a satisfying meal, it's relatively easy to prepare, it isn't very messy to eat (provided the filling chooses to behave itself), and it can be easily customized to the preferences of the diner, at a table or on the go.

Within that soft and versatile tortilla wrapping can be placed a great variety of fillings. Meat or meat-free, spicy or more plain, anything really goes in the convenient and tasty world of the burrito, a name that means "little donkey" in Spanish because a neatly-folded tortilla resembles the ear of a donkey (per Old El Paso).

They go with anything, it seems, except perhaps bids for glory at the Olympics. One unfortunate Olympian found themselves banned from competing, and according to them, it was all the fault of an unfortunate choice of meal: a pork-stuffed burrito.

Shelby Houlihan tests positive for nandrolone

In June 2021, NPR reported that United States track talent Shelby Houlihan had received a four-year ban on competing internationally. This, tragically, took her out of the running for the Tokyo Olympics, as well as the following Olympiad (which will take place in Paris in July 2024, according to the official website).

Houlihan, USA Today reported, is a 1,500 and 5,000 meter record-breaking middle distance runner, and would have surely proven quite the powerhouse in her nation's arsenal at the games. Sadly, during a drug test, something was detected in her system that she, as she reported on Instagram, hadn't even heard of: nandrolone. That January, the runner wrote, "I received an email from the Athletics Integrity Unit ... a drug testing sample that I provided ... returned as an Adverse Analytical Finding for an anabolic steroid called nandrolone." Reportedly being unfamiliar with the steroid, Houlihan took to Google.

Research has found links between pork consumption and nandrolone levels. According to theĀ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Portuguese National Laboratory of Veterinary Research has reported that eating pork, "specifically the liver of uncastrated males, can cause the concentration of nandrolone metabolites in the urine to exceed anti-doping limits by 10 to 100 times."

Houlihan's tricky tale

Appealing her ban, Houlihan explained on Instagram that she noted down everything she had eaten in the run-up to taking the drug test. According to her, she probably tested positive as a result of eating "a burrito ... from an authentic Mexican food truck that serves pig offal." She bought the offending meal near her Oregon home, and it was eaten around 10 hours before testing.

These revelations, alas, were not enough for Houlihan's name to be cleared, and the ban was ultimately upheld. At a press conference, the athlete detailed the lengths she had gone to. "I passed a polygraph test, I had my hair sampled by one of the world's foremost toxicologists," she said, via Bowerman Track Club on YouTube. As it was, according to her, this evidence was disregarded and it was concluded that she had taken the steroid "orally, but not regularly," since frequent use would have resulted in build-up in her hair.

In September 2021, per The Guardian, the court of arbitration for sport dismissed Houlihan's claims that she may have been given a pork burrito instead of the beef one she ordered, and that this pork may have been contaminated. Even in this unlikely scenario, per the court, "the pork consumed would not have been 'normal' pork product ordered by the food truck, but uncastrated boar." Ultimately, in the court's damning view, Houlihan's version of events "presupposes a cascade of factual and scientific improbabilities."