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Man charged with supplying performance-enhancing drugs to Olympians

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. prosecutors charged a Texas man on Wednesday with providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, including the star Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare.

Eric Lira, 41, 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, “for the purpose of corrupting” the 2020 Games. 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 does not name Okagbare, but includes details suggesting she was among Lira’s clients. A text message was sent to Okagbare seeking comment.

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.

A criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court alleges 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.

Authorities searched Okagbare’s cellphone as she was returning to the United States and found she had been communicating with Lira over using an encrypted app, according to the complaint.

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