Sports

Texas Man Is First Charged Under New Antidoping Law in U.S.

A Texas man on Wednesday became the first accused under a new federal law that criminalizes doping in international sports competitions. The man, Eric Lyra, described by prosecutors as a “physiotherapist,” is accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs to at least one athlete, including at least one runner who used them to boost her performance at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Federal prosecutors in New York announced the charges Wednesday in the first indictment under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act. Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that the move targets “those who distort the Games and seek to profit from this corruption.”

The Winter Olympics open in Beijing on February 4 in three weeks.

The law, passed in 2020, criminalizes aiding or enabling doping at international sporting events, including the Olympics, but has been widely criticized for not applying to a major US sports league such as the NFL or Major League Baseball. The law is named after Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who exposed a state-sponsored doping scheme in Russia in 2016 and then fled to the United States.

While the Rodchenkov Act was passed with support from Democrats, Republicans and the US Anti-Doping Agency, international sports organizations such as the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency have described it as a government overreach.

Both USADA and the Athletics Integrity Unit, the anti-bribery arm of the athletics governing body, applauded Wednesday’s arrest in statements. Travis Tygart, CEO of the US Agency for International Development, said he was “happy” with Rodchenkov’s law and “the strength it brings to hold Athletes Support Personnel or other conspirators accountable.”

In the case announced Wednesday, Lira, 41, is charged with one count of international sports doping and one count of brand wrong conspiracy, for allegedly mislabeling drugs used in the scheme.

Federal officials did not name the athletes who said they received drugs from Lyra. But from the details in the criminal complaint, it becomes clear that one of them is Blessing Okagbari, a Nigerian sprinter who won a silver medal in the long jump at the 2008 Olympics.

Okagbare competed in the 100 meters at the Tokyo Olympics, winning the first round of qualifying before being suspended for doping and disqualified from the semi-finals. According to the Athletics Safety Unit, Okagbare has tested positive for Human Growth Hormone.

Okagbare’s agent did not respond to a phone call or text message seeking comment. Details about the second athlete have been rare to be determined, including whether the athlete competed in Tokyo or tested positive for a banned substance.

Not much is known about Lyra. According to the shipping document, he calls himself an “ND Movement Scientist” on social media and is a managing member of Med Sport, a company registered in Texas in 2017. He is not a licensed physician or physical therapist in Texas, New York, or Florida, according to the shipping document. to federal officials.

Lyra competed in track and field at the University of Texas at El Paso between 2000 and 2004, according to a news article in El Paso Times, which said that from Sunland Park, NM Okagbare also competed for the UTEP, between 2008 and 2010.

Lyra was in a prison in El Paso on Wednesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment. It was not immediately clear if he had appointed a lawyer.

Kirsten Noyes Contribute to research.

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