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Erica Lira: Yes, I gave Blessing Okagbare performance-enhancing substances!

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A Texas therapist, Eric Lira has confessed he gave Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare and other Olympic athletes performance-enhancing substances before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Lira, according to Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, pleaded guilty on Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie Figueredo for his role in providing banned performance-enhancing drugs to Olympic athletes in advance of the 2020 Olympic Games held in Tokyo in the summer of 2021.

Okagbare was first banned for a total of 10 years, five years for the presence and use of multiple prohibited substances and five years for her refusal to co-operate with the AIU’s investigation into her case.

The Nigerian had denied knowing Lira despite despite incriminating text and voice messages between her and Lira in 2020 and 2021 found when her mobile telephone was reviewed by US Customs and Border Protection on her return to the USA from Tokyo on August 2, 2021.

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The message, according the the FBI included Okagbare asking Lira for vials or doses of EPO AND hgH, querying the quantity of drugs she would need for herslef and ‘Athlete 2’ (still unknown) as well as sending Lira a list of drugs that she wanted, including hGH and EPO.

On June 13,2021, Okagbare was also reported to have queried in a message sent to Lira whether she was safe to take a test following a partucluar dosage, and because she was not sure, she ‘just let them go so it will be missed test’.

On 22 June 2021, Okagbare also told Lira that she was pleased with her 100m time (10.63…with a 2.7 wind’) and whatever he had done was working well.

LIRA is the first defendant to be charged under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, signed into law on December 4, 2020, which proscribes doping schemes for the purpose of influencing international sports competitions, including the Olympic Games.

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Williams said: ‘This conviction is a watershed moment for international sport. 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. Lira’s efforts to pervert that goal will not go unpunished.’

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