Some thoughts on Shelby Houlihan: revisiting my Rita Jeptoo story
The Shelby Houlihan announcement hit me like a ton of bricks. I had just interviewed two-woman athletes who used the term, “badass” to describe the joie de vivre of Shelby Houlihan. Shelby Houlihan, the AR holder at 1,500m and 5000m, is a true American distance icon.
The late James Dunaway, my long-time mentor, and editor for American Track & Field magazine warned me that the fervor in which anti-doping is done could someday compromise the entire movement.
As a global journalist, not just an American journalist, I note that athletes around the world, rich and poor, educated and not well educated, cheat. As the sport has become one of our largest global icons, and the zeitgeist of sports personalities has plastered pictures of athletes everywhere, some people have a very unhealthy attitude towards sports. Doping for some is just a business decision.
There are athletes who hold themselves to a higher standard. There are athletes, many, and as much as I have seen in 35 years, I believe that most athletes do not cheat.
It seems that not only Shelby Houlihan is on review here, so is the Athletics Integrity Unit.
This is a confusing case, mostly in how it is being administered and communicated by the anti-doping team.
On October 31, 2014, I published a column in RunBlogRun, accusing Rita Jeptoo of doping and trying to avoid prosecution. She had a positive test on her A sample and had been avoiding the testing of a B sample.
In order to publish the piece, and lower the chance of losing my financial future due to lawsuits, I had 4 different confirmations of the situation. I also knew that if I did not publish that night, situations would allow Ms. Jeptoo to pick up a check for $500,000. And as we had learned with Ms. Liliya Shobukova, that money does not get returned.
I suggest that you read my series on Ms. Jeptoo: https://www.runblogrun.com/2014/11/rita-jeptoo-crisis-update-number-five-by-larry-eder.html#more. In writing the series, I traveled to Europe, and listened, without note-taking materials, to 4 hours of tapes between Ms. Jeptoo and her pharmacist.
The level of gray areas in the doping saga was tremendous. But it was pretty clear that Rita Jeptoo cheated, and was supported by a sophisticated pharmacological team that pressured her husband and when the doping positive arrived, threatened and cajoled her into keeping quiet. Lots of money was involved. Lots.
The Shelby Houlihan situation, seems to me, to be completely different. I am curious to understand why AIU did not look at this as they did with the Jerrod Lawson or Ajee’ Wilson cases. I am also curious why the USADA folks did not look into this.
It is early in this case, but the people involved, from Coach Jerry Schumacher to athlete Shelby Houlihan to legal counsel seem confounded by the AIU response.
I’m not. I lived through the Butch Reynolds fiasco, and how it almost destroyed the global federation. The desire to win, rather than come to an opinion that finds a person innocent or guilty due to the evidence sometimes overcomes all common sense.
Alas, there are always two sides to an arguement.
In reading the columns below, one by Fritz Huber and one by Toni Reavis, I am struck by the notion that the complete story has not been told and that someone is trying to win at all costs.
I also hear, being whispered in my ear, the late James Dunaway’s admonition that this is the kind of case, or event, that could compromise the integrity of anti-doping on a worldwide scale.
The Brutal Uncertainty of the Shelby Houlihan Verdict, by Fritz Huber/ Outside magazine, June 15, 2021, https://www.outsideonline.com/2424930/shelby-houlihan-doping-suspension
Who knows What to believe? by Toni Reavis, June 16, 2021:https://tonireavis.com/2021/06/16/who-knows-what-to-believe/
Source: Athletics – Run Blog Run