Nigerian sprinter, Blessing Okagbare has been allegedly identified among the exhibits
as US prosecutors begin the trial of one Eric Lira, the self-acclaimed kinesiologist and
naturopathic doctor, for providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes who
participated at the Tokyo Olympics.
The US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said Eric Lira, 41, distributed drugs, including
human growth hormone, “for the purpose of corrupting” the Tokyo games. Mr Lira
obtained misbranded versions of prescription drugs used to boost production of red
blood cells from Central and South America and distributed them to two athletes,
One of the athletes believed to be discussed in the criminal complaint but not
identified there by name is Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare.
AP reported that “the criminal complaint does not name Okagbare but includes
details suggesting she was among Lira’s clients.” Details included a series of texts
between Okagbare and Lira dated June 22, 2021. The Nigerian was said to have given
the kinesiologist “great” feedback on a product after running a then world-record and
wind-assisted 10.63 (+2.7) in Lagos the week before.
The statement read in part;
“On or about June 22, 2021, Athlete-1 wrote to LIRA, Hola amigo / Eric my body feel
so good / I just ran 10.63 in the 100m on Friday / with a 2.7 wind / I am sooooo happy
/ Ericccccccc / Whatever you did, is working so well.”
It was also noted that the athlete who participated in the race in Lagos on June 17,
2021, was suspended a few hours before participating in the semi-finals of the
women’s 100 metres race in Tokyo for testing positive for human growth hormone at
an out-of-competition drug test “on or before July 19.”
The statement added;
“Notwithstanding the attempt to evade anti-doping tests, LIRA and Athlete-1 were
discovered in their scheme. On or about July 19, 2021, Athlete-1 underwent an out-
of-competition blood collection for purposes of drug testing by the Athletics Integrity
Unit, a body charged with ensuring fair competition and prevention of doping at the
Tokyo Olympics among other competitions.
“The results of that testing reflected Athlete-1’s use of human growth hormone. On
or about July 30, 2021, Athlete-1 was provisionally suspended from Olympic
competition, including in the women’s 100m semi-finals set to take place that same
Ms Okagbare had been provisionally suspended for testing positive for human growth
hormone in July 2021 in an out-of-competition test, just hours before the former
world championships silver medallist was due to run in the semifinals of the women’s
100 metres at the Olympics.
The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) last year said Ms Okagbare had also tested positive
for a blood booster in Nigeria in June. She was charged with failing to cooperate with
the investigation after she disobeyed an order to produce “documents, records and
electronic storage devices” in relation to the other charges, the AIU said at the time.
Ms Okagbare had tweeted in 2021;
“When it’s time to say anything, I will and it will be worth the wait.”
Mr Lira was charged under the Rodchenkov Act, a law enacted at the end of 2020 and
named for Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov. It lets prosecutors seek prison
terms of up to 10 years and fines of up to $US1 million ($1.37 million) for offenders.
The charges against Mr Lira marked the first US criminal accusations of doping
related to the Tokyo Games, which were scheduled for 2020 but delayed to the
summer of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.