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Canadian Doc Accused Of Illegally Treating Top Athletes

Wed, 05/19/2010 - 7:27am

Carolyn Thompson, AP

A Canadian sports medicine doctor whose superstar clients include Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez, faces federal criminal charges in the United States for allegedly bringing unapproved drugs into the country and unlawfully treating professional athletes.

Dr. Anthony Galea was charged in a criminal complaint in U.S. District Court with smuggling, unlawful distribution of human growth hormone, introducing the unapproved drug Actovegin into interstate commerce and conspiring to lie to federal agents and defraud the United States. The doctor, known for using a blood-spinning technique known as platelet-rich plasma therapy to speed recovery from injuries, is accused of injecting at least one current National Football League player with Actovegin, a calf's blood derivative which is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and providing a retired player with human growth hormone after his playing days had ended.

Galea, who is not authorized to work in the United States, is accused of repeatedly entering the country from 2007 to 2009 to treat professional athletes from Major League Baseball, the NFL and Professional Golfers' Association, U.S. Attorney William Hochul said. But because he had been flagged at the border and told he could not bring medical supplies into the United States, he had an assistant transport drugs and equipment for him, according to court documents, telling her to say they were for a conference if agents questioned her.

Galea became the focus of Canadian and U.S. authorities' attention last September when the assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, was stopped at the border in Buffalo with the human growth hormone Actovegin, and vials of “foreign homeopathic drugs”.

“Today's complaint reveals that those responsible for the flow of illegal drugs into our country can come from all walks of life,” Hochul said. No athletes are identified by name in the government's criminal complaint or supporting affidavit, which describes the 50-year-old Galea traveling to various U.S. cities to meet with athletes.

Galea attorney Brian Greenspan called the complaint disappointing but declined to comment on the charges. “It is regrettable that Dr. Galea, a world renowned and respected sports medicine physician, now faces these further charges,” Greenspan said by e-mail. The doctor already faces charges in Canada.

Catalano, who is referred to in court documents only as a cooperating witness, initially told border agents she was on her way to the Buffalo airport to fly to Washington, D.C., to meet Galea for a medical conference. Later, she said a professional football player from Washington had called to request a session with Galea at a Washington-area hotel, according to an affidavit.

In addition to blood-spinning, Galea would administer intravenous drips to patients as well as “injections of drug mixtures into the sites of muscle tears,” an ICE agent's affidavit said. “Dr. Galea would at times inject a cocktail containing HGH into an athlete,” the affidavit said.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said league officials had not been told the identities of players referred to in the complaint but are in contact with investigators and cooperating. The players' union declined comment.

Since September, MLB players including the Mets' Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran have been contacted by federal investigators about Galea. Both Mets said they did not receive HGH from him. Tennessee Titans quarterback Chris Simms has acknowledged being treated by Galea but was not contacted by investigators. In December, Simms described the plasma injections Galea gave him in 2007 while he struggled to recover after having his spleen removed.

“If they want to talk to me, feel free,” he said in Nashville on Tuesday. “Listen. I'm a big fan of Dr. Galea. I think he's a great guy. He's helped thousands of people out, not just athletes. He's truly a great doctor,” Simms said. “I guess he's made a mistake or two, and I feel bad for him.” Simms said he has not violated any league policies.

Separately, Galea was arrested in Canada on October 15 after a search warrant was executed at the Institute of Sports Medicine Health and Wellness Center in Toronto and charged with selling Actovegin, conspiracy to import an unapproved drug, conspiracy to export a drug and smuggling goods into Canada. If convicted of the U.S. smuggling charge, Galea could face up to 20 years in prison. The other charges carry maximum sentences of three and five years.

Woods has said Galea treated him, while the doctor has said he prescribed anti-inflammatories to Rodriguez as the Yankee slugger recovered from hip surgery last year. Both athletes deny receiving performance-enhancing drugs from Galea.

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