Man accused of giving performance drugs to Olympic athletes

Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria competes in a women's 200-meter race at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar on September 30, 2019. US prosecutors indicted a man from Texas on Wednesday January 12, 2022 for providing evidence. performance-enhancing drugs to <a class=athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, including Okagbare. (AP Photo / Nariman El-Mofty, file)” title=”Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria competes in a women’s 200-meter race at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar on September 30, 2019. US prosecutors indicted a man from Texas on Wednesday January 12, 2022 for providing evidence. performance-enhancing drugs to athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, including Okagbare. (AP Photo / Nariman El-Mofty, file)” loading=”lazy”/>

Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria competes in a women’s 200-meter race at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar on September 30, 2019. US prosecutors indicted a man from Texas on Wednesday January 12, 2022 for providing evidence. performance-enhancing drugs to athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, including Okagbare. (AP Photo / Nariman El-Mofty, file)

PA

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday indicted a Texas man for providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes competing at last summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, including Nigerian sprinter star Blessing Okagbare.

Eric Lira, 41, of El Paso, is the first person to be charged under a new US anti-doping law governing international sports competitions.

The US attorney’s office in Manhattan said Lira distributed the drugs, including human growth hormone and erythropoietin, a hematopoietic hormone, “for the purpose of corrupting” the 2020 Games, which were held in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lira is also accused of conspiring to violate the laws on labeling and adulteration of drugs. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer who could comment on the charges.

“It’s not a win if you take illegal substances, it’s cheating,” FBI Deputy Director Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement.

The criminal complaint identifies Okagbare only as “Athlete 1,” but it includes details, including her performance in specific races, which make it clear that she was one of Lira’s clients. A text message was sent to Okagbare to solicit comments.

Okagbare had been provisionally suspended for testing positive for human growth hormone in July 2021 – in an out-of-competition test – just hours before the former world championship silver medalist qualified for the women’s 100-meter semi-finals at the Olympic Games. A criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan described the suspension.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said last year that Okagbare also tested positive for a blood booster in Nigeria in June. She was accused of failing to cooperate with the investigation after disobeying an order to produce “documents, records and electronic storage devices” in connection with the other charges, the IAU said at the time. .

“When it’s time to say something, I will and it will be worth the wait,” Okagbare tweeted last year.

The criminal complaint alleges that Lira, a kinesiologist and naturopathic doctor, brought “mislabeled” versions of the drugs from Central and South America to the United States before distributing them to athletes.

Federal authorities searched Okagbare’s cell phone as she returned from Tokyo in the United States and discovered that she had frequently communicated with Lira through an encrypted application, according to the complaint.

“Is it safe to take a test this morning?” Okagbare wrote in a message to Lira, according to the complaint. “Remember I took it on Wednesday and then again yesterday. I was not sure so I did not do a test.

In another exchange, Okagbare wrote to Lira that she had just run the 100m in 10.63 seconds. Reports detailed that Okagbare had organized a race during this period a few days before the message was sent. “Eric, my body feels so good,” she wrote. “Everything you have done is working so well. “

“You do your part and you’ll be ready to dominate,” Lira wrote to the athlete.

The charges against Lira were brought under the Rodchenkov Law, a law signed in 2020 that prohibits “any person other than an athlete” from knowingly influencing any “major international sporting competition” by using a prohibited substance. . ___

AP national writer Eddie Pells contributed reporting from Denver.

Naomi C. Amerson