Eric Lira, a naturopathic therapist from El Paso, Tx., was arrested by federal authorities on Wednesday and charged with distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
According the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, Lira obtained and distributed the drugs to two athletes training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.
The arrest marks the first under a new Antidoping Law passed in Dec. 2020, signed in response to the Russian doping scandal that has kept the county out of competing in Olympic events for four years. Named the The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, after the Moscow lab director who helped uncover the widespread Russian scandal, the new law passed in the U.S. under President Donald Trump.
Though not designed to prosecute individual athletes, but instead the suppliers, the World Anti-Doping Agency oddly lobbied against the bill, which the agency said would “disrupt the global legal anti-doping framework.”
Arrested and charged Wednesday under the new doping regulations, Eric Lira, 41, was accused of obtaining erythropoietin, a growth hormone and “blood building” drug, according to NBC News. He also possessed an “additional prescription drugs from sources in Central and South America,” though the drugs were not named.
The two athletes in question, who were referred to in the case as “Athlete-1” and “Athlete-2,” have had their identities kept anonymous to protect them. Reports suggest, however, that they were both fully aware that the drugs they were taking were illegal and have since been suspended from competition.
Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said that Lira’s arrest 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.”
Eric Lira allegedly used an encrypted messaging app to talk to both athletes, one of whom was a female Olympic sprinter set to compete in the semifinals of the 100-meter dash. They reportedly spoke often about the “testability” of the drugs by anti-doping authorities, according to the complaint filed with U.S. Attorney’s Office, and when it would be safe to fool authorities.
“So I took 2000ui of the E [erythropoietin] yesterday, is it safe to take a test this morning?” Athlete-1 asked Eric Lira back in July.
The Texas therapist responded confirming, “Good day [Athlete-1] . . . . 2000 ui is a low dosage.”
In another exchange revealed by the court, Athlete-1 also raved about the effectiveness of the drugs given to them by Lima, stating that, “my body feel so good.”
“I am sooooo happy / Ericccccccc / Whatever you did, is working so well,” the sprinter wrote.
“What you did . . . is going to help you for the upcoming events,” Lira reportedly responded. “You are doing your part and you will be ready to dominate.”
The athlete was tested and suspended at the Tokyo Olympic games however, after being exposed by Antidoping authorities. From the information released, many believe that Athlete 1 or Athlete 2 may be Nigerian track star Blessing Okagbare, who was pulled out the Women’s 100 meter sprint in the semifinal round after testing positive for HGH.
Under the new law, Eric Lira faces up to 10 years in prison, plus an additional five years for conspiring with others to violate drug laws in the U.S., according to NBC News.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated.
He hopes that Lira’s arrest will “send a strong message to those who would taint the Games and seek to profit from that corruption.”