Shelby Houlihan Announces Her Appeal to the Supreme Court of Switzerland Has Failed

By Jonathan Gault
May 18, 2022

Shelby Houlihan announced on Wednesday that her final appeal to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland had been dismissed and as a result, her four-year suspension for testing positive for the banned substance nandrolone in December 2020 has been upheld in its entirety. Houlihan, the American record holder in the women’s 1500 and 5000 meters, is not eligible to compete again until January 14, 2025, at which point she will be 31 years old.

After being informed by World Athletics’ Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of her positive test in January 2021, Houlihan bypassed the typical AIU appeals process in order to secure an expedited hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that would allow her to compete at the US Olympic Trials if successful. After CAS ruled against Houlihan, her only remaining option was a Hail Mary: an appeal of the CAS decision to the highest court of Switzerland (where CAS is based) that was always unlikely to succeed.

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Shelby Houlihan at USAs in 2020. Phil Bond photo

“Last week, I was informed that I lost my appeals and my ban will be upheld,” Houlihan wrote on Instagram. “No reason has been given yet for why they were dismissed. I was told from the start that it was a long shot; it’s extremely hard to overturn these cases and I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I had to try anyway. I had to fight for myself, my career, and my reputation because I am innocent. The truth hasn’t won here and that’s devastating.

“…I do believe that there are flaws in the anti-doping system who’s unfair practices result in unjust outcomes. I believe it’s broken. I also believe that there are other innocent athletes who have, and will continue to be, affected by this system. This is a problem and it needs to be addressed. I hope as I continue to move forward that I can use my experience to help change it.”

To this point, Houlihan had continued training with the hope that she would be able to return to competition sooner rather than later. That decision was thrust into the spotlight recently when former Bowerman Track Club athlete Gabriela DeBues-Stafford cited a lack of clarity on the boundaries between Schumacher and BTC head coach Jerry Schumacher as one of the reasons for her departure from the team last month. Houlihan’s lawyer Paul Greene stated that Houlihan “has been training in a manner that is completely permitted by the World Athletics rules in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.” Houlihan, in response to DeBues-Stafford’s decision, wrote that “I never wanted to have a negative impact on anyone in my decision to continue training and it hurts that I’m finding out that I did.”

The Swiss Supreme Court’s decision means Houlihan will now have to wait almost three more years before returning to competition. Houlihan told that she plans to continue training this year and will run a few time trials in the coming weeks to simulate race-type efforts. She said she is still deciding on how to approach the remaining years of her suspension.

“I’m not sure what things will look like yet moving forward,” Houlihan said in a text to “I do plan on being back in 2025 and resuming my career. I plan on continuing to run between now and then but unsure yet on the intensity of it and what that looks like. Might be good to give my body a little break. Also working on finding ways to make an income in the meantime too!”

Houlihan’s full Instagram statement appears below. Talk about the Houlihan news on our messageboard. MB: Shelby Houlihan Ban Upheld — Loses Appeal


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A post shared by Shelby Houlihan (@shelbo800)

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