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Texas Man Charged With Doping Olympic Athletes

In the first test of a new anti-doping law, an El Paso man was charged in a scheme to provide banned performance-enhancing drugs to athletes in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Eric Lira faces two criminal counts for international sports doping and for a conspiracy to misbrand drugs. He was taken into custody in Texas on Wednesday, reports the Wall Street Journal. A U.S. magistrate judge in Texas appointed an attorney for Lira and set a detention hearing for him for Tuesday. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan said that it was the first time a criminal charge was brought under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act. The act, signed in December 2020, criminalizes doping schemes at international sports competitions.

Lira claimed to be a “kinesiologist and naturopathic” doctor, but doesn’t appear to have a medical or physical therapist license. He is accused of providing human growth hormones and the blood-building drug erythropoietin to two track-and-field athletes living in Florida. The complaint doesn’t identify the athletes, nor say which country they competed for. It says on July 30, 2021, one of the athletes was provisionally suspended from competing in the women’s 100-meter semifinals at the Olympic Games after testing positive for a human growth hormone. The female athlete later lost her appeal of the suspension and received a multiyear ban from competition. Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare was the only competitor suspended from the women’s 100-meter Olympic semifinal race over test results for banned substances. She has denied allegations from the Athletics Integrity Unit, who brought disciplinary charges against her.

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