A “naturopathic” therapist from Texas was hit with federal doping charges Wednesday for allegedly providing performance-enhancing drugs to a sprinter who was banned from the Tokyo Olympics.
Eric Lira, 41, of El Paso, is the first person charged under a federal anti-doping act signed into law in December 2020, the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York said in a press release Wednesday.
Lira is accused of providing human growth hormone and bacteriostatic — a masking agent — and other banned drugs to a track and field star identified only as “Athlete 1” in the federal complaint, starting in November 2020.
“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 counties for over a year … Eric Lira schemed to debase the moment by peddling illegal drugs,” Southern District US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
“The promise of the Olympic Games is a global message of unification,” Wiliams said. “Today, this office sends a strong message to those who would train the Games and seek to profit from that corruption.”
Although the athlete is not identified, federal prosecutors said the athlete was banned from running in the Olympic 100-meter semi-finals.
Nigerian track star Blessing Okagbare, one of the favorites in the event, was banned from further competition after testing positive for HGH at the same time as Athlete 1.
Investigators said Lira got the drugs from Mexico and South America.
According to the complaint, the unnamed athlete reached out to Lira on Nov. 17, 2020, and “requested that Lira provide her with 4 vials or doses of ‘honey,’” which federal investigators said is code for human growth hormone.
The request came months before the 2020 Tokyo games, which were delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were held last year instead.
In a text message in April 2021, Lira allegedly told the athlete, “I will send you the 2 honeys an [sic] 4 bac water,” referring to bacteriostatic water, which is used to dilute or dissolve injected medications, the complaint said.
In June 2021, the athlete wrote Lira and told him, “I just sent you $2,500, can you confirm it via Zelle? And also remember I told you [a second unnamed athlete] had hurt his hamstring, so anything that will help the hamstring really fast you can actually bring it as well, ok?”
But the first athlete ran into trouble in July after testing positive, the feds said.
“Call me urgently,” the athlete messaged Lira on July 30, 2021. “[T]hey said one of my result came out positive on HGH… I don’t understand.”
According to the federal complaint, investigators also got tipped off about PEDs in the Jacksonville, Florida home of “Athlete 2” in July 2021, including a box of 100 hypodermic needles and IGF — insulin growth factor.
Lira now faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges.
Lira is charged with violating the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, which was signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 4, 2020.