US man gets prison for Tokyo Olympics doping charge


FILE PHOTO: The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 23, 2021. Fireworks are seen from outside the stadium during the Opening Ceremony. REUTERS/Naoki Ogura/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Texas man who pleaded guilty to involvement in providing banned performance-enhancing drugs to athletes before the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was sentenced on Wednesday to three months in prison, U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan said.

Eric Lira, 44, of El Paso, had been the first person charged under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, a 2020 federal law that criminalizes doping schemes that are intended to influence sports events.

Prosecutors said Lira, styling himself as a "kinesiologist" and "naturopathic doctor," distributed banned drugs including human growth hormone to athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, which were held in 2021 because of the pandemic.

"Doping not only distorts fair play but also erodes the essence of sportsmanship," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan said in a statement.

"Today's sentence sends a clear message: violating the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act comes with serious consequences up to and including incarceration," he added. "That message is especially important this year with the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Paris."

Court papers quoted one track athlete who received illegal drugs from Lira, and who after performing well wrote him messages including, "Eric my body feel so good," "I am soooo happy," and "Whatever you did, is working so well."

Lira was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan. He was also ordered to serve one year of supervised release and to forfeit $16,410.

Lira's lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. She had sought probation for Lira, calling his conduct "the most innocuous violation of RADA one could imagine."

The Rodchenkov Act was named for Grigory Rodchenkov, a former Russia anti-doping laboratory head who blew the whistle on that country's doping scandal following the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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