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Surprise! The Oregonian is publishing pro-Shelby Houlihan, pro-Nike propaganda
With 2-1/2 years remaining on Houlihan's suspension from athletics, the media continue to delegitimize her positive test and ignore the glaringly obvious PED use that caused it
The Oregonian, a media outlet located conveniently close to the headquarters of Nike, today published a piece by Jeff Manning titled “Runner Shelby Houlihan, banned 4 years on doping charges, vows return.” It’s exactly the kind of especially flimsy and dubious editorial you’d expect in the middle of a long U.S. holiday weekend, after which running-minded people will require a familiar and endlessly debatable topic to seize on anew before the World Championships kick off in Eugene, Oregon, a city also startlingly close to Nike’s international operating base.
Manning’s editorial is a remarkably transparent, artless, and unambitious advocacy piece aimed at convincing readers that Houlihan was unjustly suspended. Manning and Houlihan may have even been direct-messaging each other to get the details “right” for the final submission to whoever applied any final edits to this nonsense.
The piece starts with another admiring disclosure of a solo Houlihan time-trial (“flat out,” Manning helpfully adds). Then the buncombe starts rolling off the page as if no one reading is remotely familiar with the reality of the Houlihan saga.
I mean, this?
Her life took a dramatic turn last year when the Court of Arbitration for Sport banned her from competition, accused of using performance enhancing drugs.
Grammatical infelicities aside, the idea that Houlihan was merely “accused of using” PEDs is tantamount to saying that I have accused Lindsay Crouse of The New York Times, Latoya Snell of Instagram, and other running and running-adjacent figures of lying. That’s true, but those accusations are rooted in incontrovertible evidence—facts that can only be ignored by the catastrophically biased, deluded, or stupid. And anyone who believed the case against Houlihan isn’t similarly ironclad might as well be declaring that they don’t believe in drug testing at all—in effect, that anyone who says he or she is clean should be taken seriously no matter the evidence against him or her.
If, on the other hand, I said, “I don’t think Keira D’Amato is clean,” that would be a mere accusation.
This “doubt the testing” stance, of course, doesn’t apply to American track fans when someone from Russia or China is suspended. But this is exactly what Houlihan and Manning are conspiring to convince the public of here: Not that Shelbo was necessarily targeted or the victim of a random mistake, but that the whole system is corrupt.
And why not? It’s the only option the sociopathic Houlihan has left in her arsenal: Sowing doubt. And although this looks grimly pathetic to anyone who has seen these shows unfold for decades in the same general way, she’s getting an enormous amount of help from idiots like Manning. After she finally disclosed her five-month-old suspension in June 2020, the running and corporate media were uniformly skeptical not of Houlihan’s absurd burrito story but of the positive test, the World Anti-Doping Agency (especially Christiane Ayotte), the U.S. food chain, and everything besides the obvious.
Manning continues in his doggedly Ridgemont High School Sports Weekly way:
The Houlihan case leaves the track fan with two equally distasteful scenarios: Either the sport’s anti-doping regulators wrongfully accused an innocent athlete and quite possibly ended her career or one of the sport’s brightest stars is a drug cheat and a convincing liar.
For one thing, this is a blatantly false binary. Someone engaged in serious essayship would have written “Either the test represented evidence of intentional doping on the part of Houlihan or it didn’t,” or words to that effect. Instead, Manning offers two deep-rabbit-hole possibilities out of many. For example, Houlihan could have been sabotaged by a teammate jealous of her abs, her times, or her boyfriend.
For another, whom exactly does Manning purport to represent here? Why does he think readers would find these scenarios “equally distasteful”? Does he really think everyone else doesn’t want drug cheats caught and punished—wherever they’re from and whatever clubs and corporate interests they represent?
Manning adds, “At 5′3″, 115 pounds, Houlihan is tiny. She’s got striking blue-green eyes and a rippled six-pack.” I have no issues with this characterization, but I would think that running’s anti-body-talk element would have serious problems with it, given where the bar for noticing that people differ in appearance is set. Instead, expect Chris Chavez and the other bought members of the pro-Shelby, “Support Americans Unconditionally” pundit class to overlook it (and in some cases masturbate to it).
Alan Abrahamson of 3 Wire Sports wrote a Twitter thread about the article through the lens of racism. He has a point: Even though Wokish observers have written posts and tweets here and there suggesting that black U.S. athletes serving doping suspensions, such as Brianna McNeil, were shafted by the system, Houlihan alone among tainted professional American track athletes has been the beneficiary of repeated obscurantist pieces—stories that are not merely sympathetic, but comically pro-Shelby.
It’s also ridiculous to see not just Houlihan but everyone in her orbit, everyone involved in any way with her case, as saintly. Forget the fact that this is the Nike Oregon Project reboot and many of the same pundits who think Salazar was unconditionally dirty—not just a doper but a lecher or worse. Why would any seasoned and cogent track observer believe for one moment that when Nike was forced to shift its elite-level resources to the Bowerman Track Club, it elected for the first time in its gloriously Machiavellian history to go up against the rest of the world’s doped-up runners clean?
Oh, that’s right. Reality can be distasteful.
It’s not surprising that U.S. Anti-Doping head and perennial dirtbag Travis Tygart has assumed a pro-Shelby stance. He’s always had his own agenda and is just another lawyer operating in a moral cocoon. When he leaves, someone equally bad or worse will take his place, perhaps Shelby Houlihan or Jeff Manning.
I’m tired of all the lies and the lying, especially when it consistently portrays bad actors as not merely innocent of what they’re being accused of but stellar human beings, people who’d never cross lines in any area of their lives. Schumacher is “respected coach” and a “genial Midwesterner.”
Years ago, I was told a story. In 2015, someone who is now a principal figure in the BTC was attending a high-school reunion, got piss-drunk, and loudly announced both that she was having sex with her coach and that she would go on to win the Boston Marathon one day. I wasn’t there, but a lot of people were, and a lot of them have direct connections to the tiny and incestuous running “community.”
This is also something for which I have no evidence, but I also believe it 100 percent. I have had little inclination to mention it here despite the nauseating tide of “These poor, poor bastards!” stories. But they just keep coming, harder and harder, at a time when far more consequential stories—about inflation, war, abortion, everything—are being similarly spun. It’s one thing for people to lie and cheat; I’ve explained my tacit unwillingness to roundly condemn the morality of a world-class endurance athlete who gets sanctioned for doing what it takes to compete with the world’s best.
But the inherent personalities and reactions of caught dopers very, and I have never seen a more shameless, clumsy, brute-force push to protect someone in track and field than I am now. And it’s not just Houlihan’s image the media are massaging here, it’s that of the whole BTC. And they have to, because as soon as people on the fence start accepting for whatever reason that Houlihan intentionally cheated—and someone in the know will eventually start offering details—then those same people will start taking harder looks at all those crazy marks thrown down in recent years, months and weeks by other BTC members. And that would just unfairly harsh the mellow of some of the best, most courageous, most upstanding people to ever grace top-level athletics.
I wanted to get this out quickly because I’ll be keeping an eye on how the rest of the media and its ragtag, disseminated army of selectively critical meatheads handles this joke of a story. I’m guessing you’ll typically see it retweeted without commentary; this is a way for people to amplify lies without openly endorsing them, the perfect coward’s vehicle should anyone press them on their allegiance to bullshit. A retweet without commentary is an endorsement.
If nothing else, I may get to see many of the folks at the center of this get stomped on later this month. I hope every race goes out at world-record pace just to see the BTC athletes lose to East Africans despite running highly suspicious times themselves, the ideal outcome for someone who doesn’t find anything about the circus “distasteful” other than contributions from drooling fanboys like Jeff Manning. No medals but a growing chorus of “Hey, that’s not just supershoes.” And then maybe the public conversation will shift, or at least the people responsible for creating and magnifying pro-PED propaganda will be properly shamed.
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