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El Paso Naturopath accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs in ‘effort to corrupt 2020 Tokyo Olympics’

EL PASO, Texas - Charges have been filed in federal court in Manhattan against Eric Lira, a "naturopathic" therapist from El Paso, accusing him of obtaining and distributing performance-enhancing drugs to certain athletes ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Lira was taken into federal custody today.

According to the complaint obtained by ABC-7, Lira obtained misbranded versions of human growth hormones and the drug erythropoietin, known as "E" or EPO from sources in Central and South America and distributed them to two athletes, named in the complaint as "Athlete-1" and "Athlete-2."

The complaint says Lira and Athlete-1 communicated through an encrypted electronic messaging system and specifically discussed the 'testablility' of the drugs by anti-doping authorities.

In the complaint, on or about June 13, 2021, Athlete-1 wrote to Lira, “So I took 2000ui of the E [erythropoietin] yesterday, is it safe to take a test this morning?” Lira replied, “Good day [Athlete-1] . . . . 2000 ui is a low dosage.” Athlete-1 replied further, “Remember I took it Wednesday and then yesterday again / I wasn’t sure so I didn’t take a test / I just let them go so it will be a missed test.”

Lira and Athlete-1, in particular, explicitly acknowledged the effectiveness of the doping program achieved through the use of Lira’s illegal drugs. 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.” Shortly thereafter, and in advance of Athlete-1’s arrival in Tokyo to compete in the 2020 Olympics, Lira encouraged his client: “What you did . . . is going to help you for the upcoming events. You are doing your part and you will be ready to dominate.”

On or around 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. 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 evening.

While prosecutors did not identify the athletes who allegedly took the illegal substances, published reports from July 30th indicate former UTEP track and field star Blessing Okagbare, who was a sprinter on the Nigerian Olympic team, was suspended from the Tokyo Olympics hours before her 100m competition after testing positive for human growth hormone and EPO.

While at UTEP, Okegbare set 17 school records and won numerous national track and field titles and a silver medal in the long jump for Nigeria in the 2008 Summer Olympics. She was inducted to UTEP's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017.

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Mark Ross

Mark Ross is an anchor/producer for ABC-7.


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