Two track and field coaches, both former elite sprinters themselves, were charged with providing banned substances to athletes before the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a broadening criminal crackdown related to the operations of Eric Lira, an admitted performance-enhancing drug peddler in Texas.
O’Neil Wright and Dewayne Barrett helped Lira provide at least three Olympic athletes — representing Nigeria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom — with a list of banned substances, including erythropoietin, or EPO, human growth hormone and clenbuterol, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday and filed in the Southern District of New York.
Though none of the athletes are named, details in the records make clear the Nigerian athlete is Blessing Okagbare, a sprinter who was banned from the Tokyo Games after testing positive for human growth hormone.
The previous indictment of Lira, a self-proclaimed “naturopathic” doctor in El Paso, suggested that Okagbare was among his clients acquiring PEDs. Lira is the first person to be charged under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, the federal anti-doping statutes created in the wake of the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal. He pleaded guilty earlier this year and is awaiting sentencing. In the indictments of Wright and Barrett, who also were charged under the Rodchenkov Act, Lira is referred to as CC-1, or co-conspirator.
It is not clear whether Barrett and Wright yet have lawyers, and the coaches did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Lira’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the latest indictment. Okagbare has not responded to repeated requests to comment.
The indictment of Wright and Barrett depicts Lira ferrying banned substances around the country — including to New York, Florida and Atlanta — to coaches who paid him thousands to improve the performances of athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed a year to 2021 by the pandemic.
The indictment also charges Barrett, a former Olympic-level sprinter from Jamaica who is now a coach and personal trainer based out of Manhattan, with using the identities of 70 people to fraudulently apply for pandemic loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.
In text messages with Okagbare, Barrett appeared to refer to himself as “a drug coach.”
“What’s me and o’neil role,” Barrett allegedly texted Okagbare, according to the indictment. “how do you need us to help you and [another athlete] be gold medalist?”
According to the indictment, Barrett allegedly followed that with another message making clear his recommendation to Okagbare: “U need a coach that will lie for you.”
In June 2021, a month before the opening of the Tokyo Games, Barrett sent Lira messages on WhatsApp arranging for him to provide PEDs to the three athletes, prosecutors allege. After Barrett asked Lira about bringing HGH to New York for the Swiss athlete, according to the indictment, that athlete met Lira at John F. Kennedy International Airport for the drugs. Lira then billed Barrett $4,590, according to the indictment.
Barrett also discussed Lira providing Okagbare with EPO and Clenbuterol, prosecutors alleged, and asked Lira whether the United Kingdom athlete could get “treatment in Texas” — which the indictment calls an allusion to Lira’s PED services in El Paso. A submission by prosecutors in Lira’s case also mentions his meetings with an “Olympic athlete who competed on behalf of the United Kingdom.”
The same month, Wright, a former sprinter representing Liberia, provided Lira with a list of banned substances to bring to Atlanta, where he is listed as a track and field coach at a local private school. Wright directed Lira to meet the Swiss athlete at an Atlanta-area hotel. According to prosecutors, the meeting was for the purpose of providing HGH and erythropoietin, a blood builder, and afterward Wright allegedly texted Lira to thank him for “getting my athlete right.”
In other messages cited by prosecutors, Barrett asked Lira what he could give an athlete “to help them to get quick and fast for 100 meter,” later adding that the athlete was from “a small island” and telling Lira when they expected the athlete to be subjected to drug testing.
According to the indictment, Lira recommended axcion phentermine, a banned stimulant that acts as an appetite suppressant. “[M]ore alert and explosive,” Lira texted.
In another conversation cited in the indictment, Barrett allegedly detailed to Lira the PEDs he needed “to ship to an athlete asap,” adding that the sprinter is focused “on the 200 but can run a good 400 and 100,” apparently referencing race lengths.
Lira recommended a six-week regimen of EPO, cited a price, and remarked, “He will run some crazy.”