Texas man charged with providing PEDs to 2020 Olympians

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged a Texas man with providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes competing in the 2020 Olympics, according to a criminal complaint.

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According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Eric Lira, 41, of El Paso, became the first person to be charged under a new U.S. anti-doping law governing international sports competitions, according to The Associated Press.

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, named after the whistleblower in the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal, was signed into law in 2020, according to The Washington Post. The law makes it a crime to aid or enable doping at international sporting events, including the Olympics, The New York Times reported. However, it does not apply to major American sports leagues like the NFL or Major League Baseball, the newspaper reported.

In their complaint, prosecutors allege that Lira, a self-proclaimed “kinesiologist and naturopathic” therapist, provided banned substances including human growth hormone and erythropoietin, or EPO, to the athletes. Lira, 41, is the proprietor of Med Sport LLC, an El Paso company, the Post reported. He is also accused of conspiring to violate drug misbranding and adulteration laws, according to the AP.

According to a LinkedIn profile, Lira has conducted business in Texas and Juárez, Mexico, which borders El Paso. Lira was in a jail in El Paso on Wednesday afternoon and unable to be reached for comment, according to the Times. It is unclear whether Lira has a lawyer.

Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare was provisionally suspended for testing positive for human growth hormone in July 2021, hours before she was due to compete in the semifinals of the women’s 100-meter competition at the Olympics, the AP reported.

The criminal complaint does not name Okagbare, who won a silver medal in the long jump at the 2008 Olympics, but includes details suggesting she was among Lira’s clients, the Post reported.

Federal authorities searched Okagbare’s cellphone when she returned to the United States from Tokyo and discovered she had traded messages over an encrypted app, the complaint alleges.

“It’s not winning if you take illegal substances -- it’s cheating,” FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement. “Mr. Lira will now be forced to face the consequences of his alleged criminal actions.”

Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said in a statement that Lira’s indictment was a “wonderful example of the power of whistleblowers coming forward to trusted anti-doping agencies and law enforcement to ensure the protection of the Olympic Games.”

Lira competed in track and field for the University of Texas at El Paso between 2000 and 2004, according to the El Paso Times. Okagbare also competed for UTEP between 2008 and 2010.