We reached out to Ross, who is one of the best at conveying information on endurance sports science, a few months ago and asked him to look at the Shelby case for us.
He's got two pieces for us.
If you've only got time to read one, we recommend the Q&A piece where he gives his opinion on the case, the ruling, Shelby's burrito defense and a lot more. (Spoiler alert, he agrees with how CAS ruled.)
Ross goes through the CAS decision step by step from beginning to end, clarifies some of the more esoteric aspects of the case and outlines in clear terms exactly what Houlihan argued and why he thinks CAS ultimately (correct...
“Prof Christiane Ayotte, who testifies for World Athletics in the case, says, in Points 76 and 114 that in recent years, they have begun noticing a new pattern of carbon isotope signatures in these 19-NA doping cases. She says that since 2018, 31 conclusive Adverse Analytical Findings for 19-NA belong to one of two distinct groups or types. One batch has an isotope signature around -29‰, while the other is clustered around -23‰. Presumably, the -29‰ is injected nandrolone, but the -23‰ belongs to what Ayotte describes as oral precursors of nandrolone. She even names two – 19-nor DHEA and nor-Andro, says they can be purchased on Amazon, and says that she has tested such a product and found that its isotopic signature was -23.8‰. Given that Houlihan’s 19-NA was measured at -23‰, and thus very similar to these precursors but very different from what would be expected from pork, this is as close as Ayotte comes to offering what they believe to be the doping act in the Houlihan case. But of course, they never have to explain the origins of the 19-NA – that burden is on Houlihan.”
The first 3 replies to this thread were deleted because we asked people to take some time to read the pieces before commentating. They did not do that.
Ross spent A TON of time on this as the case is quite complicated and hard to understand even if you are a scientific expert like Ross. We hired him as we wanted him to go step by step and break down the decision. The original piece he wrote was over 9,000 words. We had him shorten it down but still thought it was too technical so we went with the Q&A as the featured piece. I kind of think we should have just kept the original 9,000 and then down the Q&A.
Only one of the 3 deleted posts deleted had anything of substance to it. I'll address it now.
Ross isn't saying that Ayotte didn't perjure herself. I think you misread what he wrote. He is saying the best case (for Ayotte) is that she made an inaccurate generalization. It's still possible she did perjure herself. I honestly have no idea. And it's still up for debate as to whether there should have been more consequences for her mistake or not. I don't read that quote from Ross and view it as a ringing endorsement.
Look, I have a Canadian friend who told me Ayotte had a fantastic reputation. And we all make mistakes but try telling that to Jarrion Lawson or Paul Doyle (his agent) and see what they have to say. I believe in holding people in authority - cops, expert witnesses - to very high standards.
I've said repeatedly that I thought under the rules Shelby should be banned and Ross agrees. But what bothers me about these cases is sometimes the athletes get off and sometimes they don't. I actually sent Ross a few follow up questions and one was long the lines of "Is it true that Ajee Wilson and Jarrion both showed a greater than 50% chance that they ate contaminated beef?" To me, they showed that it's possible the levels they tested positive for were the result of beef but it doesn't seem to me that they or anyone would be able to prove there is a greater than 50% chance the beef they ate caused it.
Does 50% of the beef ate a Jamaican restaurant have levels high enough to cause one to test positive? I doubt it. Now don't misunderstand me. Look, if there is a 3% chance it's simply that they went to a restaurant and got screwed over by chance, I'm happy they are off but I think Travis Tygart is right - the rules need to be changed.
The individual facts of whether Shelby, Ajee or Jarrion intentionally doped or not aren't my big concern. While life altering for them, long term the system is what needs to be as ironclad as possible.
We can't have a system where people who can afford hundreds of thousands of dollars for lawyers, expert witness, private investigators, etc. get off and everyone else quietly gets canned.
One could argue we made tshirts mocking her defense. Do you think Jerry and the BTC is happy the shirt are made? I highly doubt it. I know a lot of people think the defense is laughable - so I made the shirt. I actually made the shirts kind of out of the desire to show I'm not in the tank for Shelby and to give fans a voice. The fans who are expected to believe these excuses are constantly ignored by those in charge.
But I didn't want people to think I personally was trying to profit off of her conviction. I mean that's pretty sick whether she did it or not so I thought donating the proceeds to her defense was a decent compromise. I've never understood the rationale of why people won't give convicted criminals DNA tests after the fact. If we are so confident they are guilty, let them do everything possible to try to prove their innocence and then the system comes out as being more trustworthy.
Please try to keep the posts on topic about the Tucker piece that we devoted a ton of resources to. If we are in the tank for Shelby, we certainly wouldn't have spent weeks of time and $$$ to have this piece written.
"What about the sport?" is a motto I'm always trying to think about. I want to leave the sport a better one than when I got involved in it and I think doping is the biggest cancer in the sport. We have to be able to trust the system and right now I think most people think it's hard to truly trust it.
Thank you for your answer. I find that its quite alarming that you are raising funds to Shelby. Why not donate the proceeds to a charity if you dont want to profit of her case?
Anyway, nice interview albeit a bit unsatisfying as at least 5 , if not more, questions are different versions of "Is Shelby innocent". Finishing off with asking how she is going to prove her innocence gives an impression that her innocence is contested, all the while he is saying that is not the case.
This is really really fantastic, Ross is a huge asset to the world of sports and sports science.
Can we ask that given the facts have been so clearly laid out, that now the Shelby defence fund tee's are pulled, or at least stop donating to the fund?
There's no grey area in this case - and fantastic writing like this is undermind by sliding money to convicted cheaters. If you value the effort that good people like Ross go to to convey facts the least you can now do is stop sullying the sport by financially supporting a known cheat.
I think this is where you and Gault have been off the most in your analysis of this case. Tucker brings it up very clearly, but you guys seem to be unable to process what he's saying. There is an agro expert witness who basically confirmed that it is virtually impossible that the meat source could cause a positive test. That's not Shelby's burrito, that's any burrito. That was not disputed by Shelby & team.
They also didn't produce any evidence from the truck or any meat source provider that her result could happen. Wilson and Lawson did in their case, and the trace amounts in their samples were replicable. This isn't even getting into the signature, the fact she ordered beef, the amount in her sample, and the fact that pork stomach doesn't seem to produce this sort of result (pork kidney might).
So these are completely different scenarios. From how impossible it is to believe that Shelby's burrito was the source, I'd say almost every astute observer has concluded that it was a hail mary theory based on the fact they couldn't find any tainted supplement to blame for it. Shelby herself has suggested as much. The "whataboutism" with Lawson/Wilson has clearly been shown to be a lazy analysis of this, Rojo. Tucker really put the nail in the coffin on it.