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Texas man is first to be charged under U.S. anti-doping law

Jan. 12 (UPI) -- A Texas man became the first person to be charged under a federal anti-doping law for allegedly giving at least two Olympic athletes performance-enhancing drugs, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said Eric Lira -- described as a naturopathic therapist who operates near El Paso, Texas -- distributed the drugs to athletes participating in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. They said he gave them the drugs in summer 2021 "for the purpose of cheating" in the Summer Games.

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Lira was arrested Wednesday on one count of international sports doping and one count of misbranding conspiracy.

The criminal complaint said a source provided to investigators evidence of human growth hormone they found inside one of the athletes' residence in Jacksonville, Fla. The evidence included a parcel that showed it was mailed from Lira in El Paso, Texas.

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Investigators said the athlete tested positive for human growth hormone and was disqualified from the 100-meter semifinals on the same day of competition. Though the complaint didn't name the two athletes to which Lira allegedly gave the drugs, the details indicate the disqualified athlete was Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare.

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"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 said.

"The promise of the Olympic Games is a global message of unification. Today, this office sends a strong message to those who would taint the Games and seek to profit from that corruption."

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