Eric Lira, a citizen of the United States, has been arrested for allegedly supplying performance-enhancing drugs to Nigerian sprinter, Blessing Okagbare, and other athletes that competed in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
According to a report in NBC News, prosecutors filed a criminal complaint at the Manhattan Federal Court on Wednesday alleging that Lira, a kinesiologist and naturopathic doctor, brought “misbranded” versions of the drugs to the United States from Central and South America before distributing them to athletes.
The 41-year-old is the first person to be charged under the new U.S. anti-doping law governing international sports competitions.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, Lira distributed the drugs, including human growth hormone and erythropoietin, a blood-building hormone, “for the purpose of corrupting” the 2020 Games.
Lira also is accused of conspiring to violate drug misbranding and adulteration laws.
Meanwhile, a criminal complaint does not name Okagbare but includes details suggesting she was among Lira´s clients.
FBI Assistant Director, Michael J. Driscoll, had said in a statement, “It´s not winning if you take illegal substances – it’s cheating.”
Okagbare had been provisionally suspended for testing positive for human growth hormone in July 2021, just hours before the former world championships silver medalist was due to run in the semifinals of the women´s 100 meters at the Olympics.
She tested positive for the drug in an out-of-competition test.
Federal authorities searched Okagbare’s cellphone as she was returning to the United States from Tokyo and found she had frequently communicated with Lira over an encrypted app, according to the complaint.
“Is it safe to take a test this morning?” Okagbare wrote in one message to Lira, according to the complaint. “Remember I took it Wednesday and then yesterday again. I wasn´t sure so I didn’t take a test.”
In another exchange, Okagbare wrote to Lira that she had just run the 100m in 10.63 seconds. “Eric my body feels so good,” she wrote. “Whatever you did is working so well.”
LIRA encouraged his client, “What you did . . . is going to help you for the upcoming events. You are doing your part and you will be ready to dominate.”
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.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said, “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.”