US Olympic officials reverse course, boot banned runner Shelby Houlihan from track trials

American runner Shelby Houlihan will not be eligible to run at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials after all.

Hours after USA Track and Field indicated that Houlihan would allowed to run at the Olympic trials, despite a recent decision to uphold her four-year ban for violating anti-doping rules, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee stepped in to clarify the matter Thursday evening.

"The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, together with USATF, can confirm that we will adhere to the (World Anti-Doping Agency) Code and any (Court of Arbitration for Sport) decisions that govern athlete participation in sanctioned events," the organization's CEO, Sarah Hirshland, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports.

Shelby Houlihan is the American record holder at 1,500 and 5,000 meters. (Photo: The Associated Press)

The USOPC's intervention comes amid outcry from both the international anti-doping community and prominent American runners, that a runner banned for doping would still be allowed to compete.

Houlihan, who holds the American records at both 1,500 and 5,000 meters, tested positive for an anabolic steroid called nandrolone in December. She has strongly denied wrongdoing and believes she must have unknowingly ingested the steroid through pork offal in a burrito she purchased at a food truck. Small amounts of nandrolone have been found in pork meat.

In most cases, track athletes who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs first have a hearing before the Athletics Integrity Unit, which runs the anti-doping program for track and field's international governing body, World Athletics. But with the Olympic trials and 2021 Tokyo Olympics quickly approaching, Houlihan took her appeal directly to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, which ruled against her and upheld her four-year ban.

Despite the ban, which Houlihan revealed Monday, she remained listed in the fields of both the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, with the preliminary races set to begin Friday.

Susan Hazzard, a spokesperson for USATF, said in a statement earlier Thursday that the organization would allow allow athletes who are in the midst of an "active appeal process" to continue competing until the process is complete. 

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