Doping law leads to indictments against coaches of sprinters

NEW YORK -- Federal prosecutors have charged two former elite sprinters as part of a widening case alleging a conspiracy to supply banned performance-enhancing drugs for athletes in advance of the Tokyo Olympics.

An indictment unsealed Thursday in the Southern District of New York charges O'Neil Wright and Dewayne Barrett with working to provide sprinters from Nigeria, Switzerland and Britain with drugs to get them ready for the Tokyo Games.

The indictment says Wright and Barrett worked with Eric Lira, who has already pleaded guilty under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, which was passed in 2020 to target wide-ranging doping schemes across the globe.

One of the athletes Lira worked with was Nigeria's Blessing Okagbare, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist who has been banned for 11 years for taking human-growth hormone and the blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO) and also for failing to cooperate with the investigation.

EPO and HgH were among the drugs Barrett and Wright were discussing with Lira, labeled as "Co-conspirator 1" (CC-1) in the indictment.

"Prices. CC-1 responded via text message: '100 million stem cells at $1900, Human Placent is $350, Hgh 12 mg $450,'" the indictment said, in recounting a text exchange between Barrett and Lira.

The indictment details an exchange with Okagbare, who is referred to as "Athlete 1," in which Barrett asked: "How do you need us to help you and [another athlete] be gold medalist?" And, later: "U need a coach that will lie for you."

Wright was a 200- and 400-meter sprinter for Liberia who ran at the 2005 track world championships. Barrett won a silver medal for Jamaica in the 4x400 relay at world indoor championships in 2008.

Neither Wright nor Barrett immediately returned messages left by The Associated Press via email and social media.