TOKYO 2020 FALLOUT Texas Man Charged with Distribution of Banned Drugs to Olympians, Including Okagbare

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Duro Ikhazuagbe

With the charging of a Texas man on Wednesday by U.S prosecutors for providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes competing at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, hope dims for Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare escaping long term ban from World Athletics.

Documents made available to THISDAY revealed a damning implication of Okagbare in the information made available to the U.S prosecutors by the FBI that investigated the case.

The Nigerian and Commonwealth Games double sprint champion at Glasgow 2014 was provisionally suspended from the semi final of the women’s 100m in Tokyo after Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) found her testing positive for human growth hormone in July 2021. Okagbare tested positive for the drug in an out-of-competition test.

The Texas man, 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.

Although the criminal complaint did not name Okagbare, a World Championships silver medalist, the details forwarded by the FBI in their investigation suggested the Nigerian was among Lira’s clients.

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.