US prosecutors charged a Texas man Wednesday with providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes competing in last summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, including the star Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare.
41-year-old Eric Lira, of El Paso, is the first person to be charged under a new U.S. anti-doping law governing international sports competitions.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said Lira distributed the drugs, including human growth hormone and erythropoietin, a blood-building hormone, “for the purpose of corrupting” the 2020 Games, which were held in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lira also is accused of conspiring to violate drug misbranding and adulteration laws. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could comment on the charges.
The criminal complaint identifies Okagbare only as “athlete 1,” but it includes details, including her performances in specific races, 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 — in an out-of-competition test — just hours before the former world championships silver medalist was due to run in the semifinals of the women’s 100 metres at the Olympics.
The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) last year said Okagbare also had tested positive for a blood booster in Nigeria in June. She was charged with failing to cooperate with the investigation after she disobeyed an order to produce “documents, records and electronic storage devices” in relation to the other charges, the AIU said at the time.
The charges against Lira were brought under the Rodchenkov Act, a law signed in 2020 that prohibits “any person, other than an athlete,” to knowingly influence any “major international sports competition” with the use of prohibited substance.