The sale of performance-enhancing drugs to Olympians has been charged against a Texas man.
A Texas man has been charged for giving performance-enhancing medications to Olympic athletes in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, passed in 2020, is being implemented for the first time.
According to a complaint unsealed Wednesday by the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, Eric Lira, a naturopathic and kinesiologist doctor from El Paso, allegedly obtained banned drugs such as human growth hormones and the “blood-building” erythropoietin drug “in advance of and for the purpose of corrupting the 2020 Olympic Games.” Performance was boosted by repackaging Central and South American drugs. Thanks to Lira, they can now be found in the United States.
The 41-year-old is also suspected of communicating with two unidentified Olympic athletes on an encrypted internet platform about the illegal medications’ sales, shipment, effectiveness, and the prospect of anti-doping inspectors testing the substances in their systems.
Authorities say one athlete wrote to Lira a few weeks before the Tokyo Olympics on July 23, 2021, saying their body felt “so fantastic” and they were “sooooo thrilled.” The athlete said on the platform, “Whatever you did, it’s working like a charm.”
According to legend, Lira replied, “What you’ve done will help you prepare for the next events. You’re doing your part and will soon be in command.”
A blood test conducted outside of competition revealed that one of the athletes was using human growth hormones, according to prosecutors. The athlete was temporarily forbidden from competing in the Olympics on July 30.
While the indictment did not name any of the athletes allegedly implicated in the scheme, the facts of the case suggest that one of Lira’s clients was Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare, according to the Associated Press. Okagbare was provisionally suspended in July, according to the Associated Press, after an out-of-competition blood test revealed he had tested positive for human growth hormones.
“At a time when the Olympic Games offered a poignant reminder of international connections in the midst of a global pandemic that had divided communities and countries for over a year, and at a time when the Games offered thousands of athletes validation after years of training, Eric Lira schemed to degrade that moment by peddling illegal drugs,” US Attorney Damian Williams said on Wednesday.
The Rodchenkov Act makes it illegal to “actively influence (or attempt or conspire to influence) a major international athletic event by utilizing a forbidden drug or prohibited technique.” Lira is suspected of breaking the law.
He might face a five-year prison sentence if he is charged with a felony. According to the Department of Justice, Lira is also charged with conspiracy to violate drug misbranding and adulteration regulations, which carries a potential sentence of five years in prison.
In a statement released Wednesday, FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said, “We believe Mr. Lira knew he was breaching the law when he connected with Olympians using an encrypted messaging program to disguise his unlawful conduct.” “Using illegal substances isn’t winning; it’s cheating, and Mr. Lira will now have to deal with the fallout from his suspected criminal conduct.”
Lira has been taken into federal custody and will appear in court in the Western District of Texas on Wednesday, according to the Department of Justice.
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