- United States vs Eric Lira - Complaint
December 29, 2021
- World Athletics 2021 WA vs Blessing Okagbare (1)
February 14, 2022
- World Athletics 2021 WA vs Blessing Okagbare (2)
June 23, 2022
Mr Eric Lira alleged to be a kinesiologist and naturopathic doctor in the United States, operating principally in and around El Paso, Texas. He obtained prohibited substances, and other, prescription drugs from sources in Central and South America, before bringing those drugs into the United States and distributing them to, among other, two athletes referred to in the incriminating evidence as Athlete-1 and Athlete-2.
In July 2022 criminal federal charges were filed against Mr Lira under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act for obtaining various performance enhancing drugs and distributed those drugs to certain athletes. On 8 May 2023 Mr. Lira pleaded guilty to these federal charges.
Ms Blessing Okagbare (identified as Athlete-1) is a Nigerian Athlete who tested positive in July 2021 for the prohibited substances Recombinant Erythropoietin (rhEPO) and Human Growth Hormone (hGH).
In the anti-doping case against the Ms Okagbare the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) evidence regarding the case in the United States against Mr Lira, involved in the distribution of prohibited substances to two athletes.
The FBI had also scanned Ms Okagbare's mobile telephone in August 2021 and incriminating text and voice messages send to Mr Lira showed clearly the Athlete's purchase of hGH and rhEPO. Further these messages revealed her evasion and tampering of sample collection in June 2021 resulting in a confirmed Missed Test.
Finally in two Decisions - rendered on 14 February 2021 and on 23 June 2022 - a total 11 year period of ineligibility was imposed on the Athlete for presence, use and tampering.
The Nigerian Athlete Divine Oduduru in this case was identified by the FBI in their investigations as Athlete-2. His name and involvement in doping was revealed in the evidence against Mr Lira and his distribution of prohibited substances to these two Nigerian athletes.
In July 2021, while Divine Oduduru was abroad in Europe for training, an associate (Individual-1) of both Nigerian athletes was requested by Oduduru to gather some belongings in his residence in Florida and to transfer those belongings to a near-by storge facility.
Inside the Athlete's residence in Jacksonville and in his storage facility Individual-1 found and photographed packages and vials containing various performance enhancing drugs. Thereupon Individual-1 provided those photographs as evidence to USADA and the FBI.
In view of the evidence against the Mr Divine Oduduru the AIU deemed that he was using or attempting to use multiple prohibed substances. These substances were provided to the Athlete by Eric Lira and also on occasion by Ms Okagbare, whereas Ms Okagbare was at times acting as a go-between for the Athlete with Eric Lira.
Consequently in February 2023 the AIU reported anti-doping rule violations against the Athlete Oduduru for possession and use of the prohibited substances Erythropoietin (EPO), Human Growth hormone (hGH) and Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1).
Following notification a provisional suspension was ordered. The Athlete filed a statement in his defence and in May 2023 he was heard for the World Athletics Disciplinary Tribunal.
The Athlete completely denied that multiple prohibited substances had been found in his residence. He also denied any contact with Mr Lira, neither that Ms Okabare was procuring prohibited substances on his behalf from Mr. Lira.
Instead the Athlete alleged that he had been sabotaged by Individual-1, his coach and his team. Furthermore the Athlete denied having used any prohibited substance while he had been tested before without issues.
In this case the Panel addressed the following issues:
- 1. Did the Athlete commit an ADRV under Rule 2.6 ADR (Possession of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method)?
- 2. Did the Athlete commit an ADRV under Rule 2.2 ADR (Use or Attempted Use by an Athlete of a Prohibited substance or a Prohibited Method)?
- 3. What are the Consequences of those ADRV?
- 4. Are there Aggravating Circumstances that justify increase of the period of Ineligibility?
Following assessment the Panel ultimately determines that:
- The Athlete committed the anti-doping rule violations for possession and attemped use.
- The imposed sanction is a period of ineligibility of 4 years including a period of disqualification.
- It is fair and proportionate to increase the Athlete's sanction for additional 2 years.
- The Athlete is ordered to pay a contribution to World Athletics towards the legal fees and other expenses incurred in connection with these proceedings.
Therefore the Panel decides on 18 September 2023 that:
1.) The Disciplinary Tribunal has jurisdiction to decide on the subject matters of this dispute.
2.) The Athlete has committed ADRVs under Rules 2.6 and 2.2 ADR and these shall be considered together as one single first violation.
3.) A period of Ineligibility of six (6) years is imposed upon the Athlete, starting on the date of the provisional suspension, i.e. on 9 February 2023.
4.) The Athlete’s results from 12 July 2021 until 9 February 2023, shall be disqualified with all resulting consequences.