A Texas man on Wednesday was charged with providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes who were competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, including the star Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare.
The man, identified as 41-year-old Eric Lira, of El Paso, is the first person to be charged under a new US anti-doping law governing international sports competitions.
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In a press release, the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said the accused distributed the drugs, including human growth hormone and erythropoietin, a blood-building hormone, “for the purpose of corrupting” the 2020 Games. He is accused of conspiring to violate drug misbranding and adulteration laws.
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The criminal complaint identifies Okagbare only as “athlete 1,” but it includes details that make it clear she was one of Lira’s clients. Okagbare had been provisionally suspended for testing positive for human growth hormone in July 2021 just before she was due to run in the semifinals of the women’s 100 meters at the Olympics.
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Speaking about the case, US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement, “At a moment that the Olympic Games offered a poignant reminder of international connections in the midst of a global pandemic that had separated communities and countries for over a year, and at a moment that the Games offered thousands of athletes validation after years of training, Eric Lira schemed to debase that moment by peddling illegal drugs.”
“The promise of the Olympic Games is a global message of unification. Today, this Office sends a strong message to those who would taint the Games and seek to profit from that corruption,” he added.
With inputs from The Associated Press