© Copyright – 2023 – Athletics Illustrated
Texan, Eric Lira, faces up to 10 years in prison for supplying performance-enhancing (PEDs) drugs to Olympic athletes. He pleaded guilty to the charges of supplying PEDs to athletes including Nigerian Blessing Okagbare.
The Rodchenkov Act
The 43-year-old is the first to be charged under the new US law named after Russian whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov after revelations of the systematic Russian doping program were revealed. It is officially named the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act.
The act gives power to US authorities to convict those involved in a doping program for sports. This included those who have not previously been governed by anti-doping laws related to sport. The Act also allows prosecutors to fine up to $1-million USD, however, athletes are not subject to this criminal law.
“Today’s guilty plea from Eric Lira is a strong testament to the power of the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA) to hold those accountable who conspire against the rules to rob clean athletes and defraud sport” Travis T. Tygart @usantidoping CEO https://t.co/HGkn8QEBdo— Global Athlete (@GlobalAthleteHQ) May 9, 2023
The World Anti-Doping Agency has bristled at the Act. And it has been opposed by the International Olympic Committee. However, does set a precedent for other governments to attempt to stamp out doping through criminal convictions. Kenya, a country with the most currently suspended athletes has entered the fray.
Kenyan Sports Cabinet Secretary, Ababu Namwamba, said in 2022 that Kenya will fight valiantly against the issue in the country — which he called a “serious war against doping. We are going to criminalise doping to levels you cannot imagine. We are going to be very, very harsh.”
Meanwhile, Lira supplied drugs to Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare, who was banned from athletics for 11 years, last year.
The 34-year-old was expelled from the Tokyo Olympics when it was discovered that she tested positive for human growth hormone during an out-of-competition test in Slovakia before the Games.
Williams said, “Lira provided banned performance-enhancing substances to Olympic athletes who wanted to corruptly gain a competitive edge.
“Such craven efforts to undermine the integrity of sport subverts the purpose of the Olympic Games, to showcase athletic excellence through a level playing field.
Eric Lira, a 'naturopathic' therapist faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty on Monday to supplying performance-enhancing drugs to Olympic athletes including banned Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare, US authorities said. pic.twitter.com/0BU0d1MPEW— Sport Africa (@SportAfricaNews) May 9, 2023
“Lira’s efforts to pervert that goal will not go unpunished.”
The maximum sentence for the charges indicated is 10 years; however, the sentence will be determined at a later date and is likely not to be the maximum.
“Without this law, Lira, who held himself out as a doctor to athletes, likely would have escaped consequence for his distribution of dangerous performance-enhancing drugs and his conspiracy to defraud the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games because he did not fall under any sport anti-doping rules,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, in a statement.
“[This] sends a powerful message that the rules of sport matter and that the US is committed to rooting out and penalising fraudulent activity that robs clean athletes and the public.
“This is particularly important with many international events, including the 2026 Fifa World Cup and the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, coming to the US soon.”
Grigory Rodchenchov was the mastermind behind the Sochi Olympic Games’ systematic doping program. This is where it was revealed by investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt and ARD/TV of Germany that doping control officers passed substitute urine samples through a hole in a wall at the Sochi lab. Rodchenkov is living in exile in the US after publishing his autobiography, which details the Russian doping program.