© Copyright – 2024 – Athletics Illustrated

El Paso, Texas-based athletic therapist Erica Lira was fined USD 16,410 and jailed for three months for supplying athletes with performance-enhancing drugs. One of his primary athletes was Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare who is currently under suspension.

The first to be tried and convicted by US criminal law

The sentence was delivered Wednesday after Lira pleaded guilty to supplying drugs to Olympic athletes, including the suspended Okagbare, according to the AFP news agency.

Lira is the first person to be criminally convicted under US Law.

Lira admitted supplying Okagbare with PEDs leading up to the 202 Tokyo Olympic Games. She was pulled out of the women’s 100m semi-finals shortly before the Games began. This was due to it becoming known she had tested positive for human growth hormone in an out-of-competition test in Slovakia. Okagbare was subsequently banned from the sport for 10 years.

“Today’s sentence sends a clear message: Violating the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act carries serious consequences, including prison time. This message is especially important this year with the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris. In addition to the prison term, Lira, 44, of El Paso, Texas, was sentenced to one year of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $16,410,” said US Attorney Damian Williams in a statement.

What is the Rodchenkov Act?

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act has officially been signed into United States law.

The Act gives US officials the power to prosecute individuals for doping and related acts during international sports competitions that involve American athletes.

The Act made it through the US Senate in November. President Donald Trump signed the legislation into law on Friday, December 4. 

The Act is named after the Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who is currently living in the US in exile or government protection. He was one of the primary people who enabled doping, covered up positive tests and operated the Sochi Winter Olympic and Moscow Laboratories. He played a role in the Oscar-winning documentary Icarus.

The Act gives prosecutors the ability to seek fines of up to $1 million. The Rodchenkov Act also allows the US to seek prison sentences of up to 10 years for doping when involving US athletes.

This law is late in coming. If the criminal law was in place in the past persona non grata such as Victor Conte, the mastermind behind the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, known as Balco, would have served jail time. He is alleged to have supplied many including cyclist Lance Armstrong, baseball player Barry Bonds and sprinter Marion Jones with a range of PEDs.