Texas man is first charged under new US anti-doping law

A Texas man on Wednesday became the first person charged under a new federal law that makes it a crime to allow doping in international sports competitions. The man, Eric Lira, described by prosecutors as a ‘naturopathic therapist’, is accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs to at least two athletes, including at least one sprinter who used them to boost his performance at the Games Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Federal prosecutors in New York announced the charges on Wednesday as part of the first indictment under the Rodchenkov anti-doping law. Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that the move was aimed at “those who would defile the Games and seek to profit from this corruption.”

The Beijing Winter Olympics will open in three weeks, on February 4.

The law, passed in 2020, makes it a crime to aid or enable doping at international sporting events, including the Olympics, but has been widely criticized for not applying to a major sports league American like the NFL or Major League Baseball. The act is named after Russian anti-doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who exposed Russia’s state-sponsored doping program in 2016 and then fled to the United States.

While the Rodchenkov Act was passed with the support of Democrats, Republicans and the United States Anti-Doping Agency, international sports organizations like the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency called it a government overreach.

In the case announced Wednesday, Lira, 41, was charged with one count of international sports doping and one count of misbranding conspiracy, for allegedly mislabeling drugs used in the scheme.

Federal officials did not name the athletes they believe received medication from Lira. But from the details given in the criminal complaint, it is clear that one of them is Blessing Okagbare, a Nigerian sprinter who won a silver medal in the long jump at the 2008 Olympics.

Okagbare competed in the 100 meter race at the Tokyo Olympics, winning his first heat before being suspended for doping and be disqualified from the semi-finals. According to the Athletics Integrity Unit, the anti-doping arm of athletics’ governing body, Okagbare tested positive for human growth hormone.

Okagbare’s agent did not respond to a phone call or text message seeking comment. Identifying details about the second athlete, including whether the athlete competed in Tokyo or tested positive for banned substances, were scarce.

Little is known about Lira. According to the charging document, he refers to himself as an “ND kinesiologist and naturopath” on social media sites and is a director member of Med Sport, a company registered in Texas in 2017. He is not a licensed doctor or physical therapist in Texas. . , New York or Florida, depending on federal officials.

Lira competed in track and field for the University of Texas at El Paso between 2000 and 2004, according to a news article in the El Paso Times, which said he was from Sunland Park, NM.

Lira was in a jail in El Paso on Wednesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment. It was not immediately clear if he had retained the services of a lawyer.

Kirsten Noyes contributed to the research.

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