The Athletics Integrity Unit said it had written to U.S.A. Track Field to clarify that Houlihan’s participation in “any Competition or activity authorised or organised by a World Athletics Member Federation, such as USATF (i.e., the US Olympic Team Trials — Track Field) is strictly prohibited.”
A spokesman for the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which is not even formally involved in Houlihan’s case, said: “Under the rules she’s not allowed to compete. It would be illegal for her to do so, unless a court orders differently.”
The national governing body was even criticized by more than 30 prominent runners, including Des Linden and Molly Seidel, who said in an open letter that the organization’s decision “creates a very troubling precedent for our sport.”
Still, Houlihan was listed on Thursday as a competitor in the 1,500- and 5,000-meter races — both scheduled for preliminary rounds on Friday — before the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee finally intervened.
Had it allowed Houlihan to compete, U.S.A. Track Field would have risked punishment from several organizations. Late Thursday evening, Sarah Hirshland, the chief executive of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said the organization and U.S.A. Track Field “can confirm that we will adhere to the WADA Code and any CAS decisions that govern athlete participation in sanctioned events.”
It remains unclear why U.S.A. Track Field believed Houlihan was still eligible to compete, and a spokeswoman did not respond to a request to comment. But barring yet another unforeseen twist, the closest Houlihan will be able to watch the first heats of the races she hoped to enter is from the stands.
Alanis Thames contributed reporting from Orlando, Fla.