Should you donate to support Shelby Houlihan?

By: Patrick Larson

Here is the thing, I think there is a chance that Shelby Houlihan never made a conscious decision to dope. I think there is a chance she was misled, consumed a tainted supplement, or was careless with taking nandrolone but at levels that she thought wouldn’t result in a positive test. But, as likely as those scenarios are, it is just as likely, and probably more likely, that she knowingly doped and got popped! Remember, she got convicted and the decision was upheld in an appeals court.

All this to say, I'm empathetic, to a degree, to the people who are convinced of her innocence and might consider donating to support her legal case. In terms of her guilt or innocence, I’m not here to try and convince you one way or the other—your mind is probably already made up at this point. What I am here to tell you is that no matter which side of this issue you stand on, you shouldn’t donate money to her gofundme.

1. If Shelby was innocent, why aren’t Bowerman Track Club and Nike stepping up to the plate to support her?

I think it's safe to assume that the people who have been closest to Shelby (and her biggest public supporters) are the Bowerman Track Club and Nike. Throughout this case, the Bowerman Track Club members have all come out to publicly support her claims of innocence, even when her ban was upheld in the appeals court. So, if they truly believe in her innocence, they should be putting their money where their mouth is! Nike has a strong history of supporting some dubious athletes—Alberto Salazar, Lance Armstrong, etc—so have they finally decided to start distancing themselves from questionable athletes? Or, do they know something that we don’t that would cause them to not support her financially. Either way, the Bowerman Track Club has some of the best resources of any track club in the world and if anyone should be supporting Shelby its not her fans, its Nike and Bowerman Track Club. Again, even if you believe in her innocence, you must ask yourself: Why am I being asked to foot Shelby’s legal bills instead of the multi-billion dollar company that sponsors her?

2. You have better ways to donate your money

It’s a dangerous game to play to tell someone that one charitable cause is more worthy of donating to than another. But, I’m going to play it. In this case, donating to Shelby’s case isn’t charitable—not when her case has already been upheld in the appeals court. I’d also be remiss to mention that we live in a country where marginalized groups of people have faced wrongful convictions, have had to take unfair plea deals because they can’t risk an unjust ruling, and who don’t have access to legal teams and private investigators to support their case. I have no doubt that if Shelby truly thinks she is innocent that this must be absolutely devasting and financially stressful to go through. But does that mean you need to use your money to support her? Absolutely not. In this case, I can confidently tell you that there are better organizations to donate to than this one. Here are some of them:

Girls on the Run

Special Olympics

Wings of America

Brave Like Gabe

Clean Sport

Now, if you decide after all of this that donating to Shelby’s GoFundMe is still the best use of your money, that is your prerogative. But, I hope you ask yourself a few questions before clicking the donate button:

If Nike and Bowerman Track Club truly meant their publicly stated support, why aren’t they footing the bill for the legal fees? Why should you be asked to support her when her own sponsor, a multi-billion dollar company, won’t?

 Is your money better used to support a convicted doper’s second appeals case or to support another charitable running organization?

How will you know that your donation will actually go to support her legal case? Unlike traditional non-profits that are accountable to donors and the public with how their money is used, that is not the case here. I like to think positive intent with how the money will be used, but at the moment there is no accountability or feedback loop to ensure that everyone's dollars would be used effectively.