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Man who helped Nigerian sprinter Okagbare to dope pleads guilty under landmark law

Eric Lira pleaded guilty for his role in helping Olympic athletes obtain performance-enhancing substances before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Man who helped Nigerian sprinter Okagbare to dope pleads guilty under landmark law
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Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare (Source: Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

By

PTI

Updated: 9 May 2023 6:04 AM GMT

A man charged with providing banned substances to Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare and another athlete pleaded guilty Monday, marking the first conviction under a landmark law designed to target wide-ranging doping schemes across the globe.

Eric Lira pleaded guilty for his role in helping Olympic athletes obtain performance-enhancing substances before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

The U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Damian Williams, called the plea “a watershed moment for international sport.” “Craven efforts to undermine the integrity of sport subverts the purpose of the Olympic games: to showcase athletic excellence through a level playing field,” he said in a news release.

“Lira's efforts to pervert that goal will not go unpunished.” Williams' office did not provide any information about the terms of the plea by the 43-year-old kinesiologist and naturopathic doctor from El Paso, Texas.

Violations of the law, called the Rodchenkov Act and named after the former Moscow lab director-turned-whistleblower in the Russian doping scandal, carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

An indictment unsealed last year revealed texts between Lira and Okagbare, who is serving an 11-year ban for taking human-growth hormone and the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) and also for failing to cooperate with the investigation.

The news release said a second athlete receiving drugs from Lira competed for Switzerland and also has been banned for PEDs. Williams' office said Lira advised the athletes they should blame their positive tests on contaminated meat “knowing full well that the drug tests had accurately detected the presence of banned, performance-enhancing drugs.”

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