BUFFALO (New York): A Canadian doctor whose high-profile clients have included Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez was charged Tuesday with bringing unapproved drugs into the United States and unlawfully treating pro athletes.
Dr. Anthony Galea of Toronto, who is known for using a blood-spinning technique designed 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.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo charges Galea with smuggling, unlawful distribution of human growth hormone, introducing an unapproved drug into interstate commerce, conspiring to lie to federal agents and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
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.
During that time, he billed three football players about US$200,000, Hochul said.
“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 in hotel rooms and their homes.
Galea attorney Brian Greenspan called the complaint disappointing.
“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.
Greenspan declined further comment.
Galea became the focus of Canadian and U.S. authorities’ attention last September when his assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, was stopped at the border in Buffalo with a small quantity of human growth hormone, Actovegin, and vials of “foreign homeopathic drugs.”
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 athlete from Washington had called to request a session with Galea at a Washington-area hotel and that she was transporting the drugs because Galea had been flagged at the border, according to an affidavit.
The affidavit also refers to three unidentified NFL players as witnesses, including one who allegedly received human growth hormone from Galea following his retirement. The two other players said that while they were treated by the doctor, they carefully avoided receiving HGH or other performance-enhancing substances banned by the league. One player, however, acknowledged receiving Actovegin injections from Galea, whom he saw weekly during football season and even more frequently when injured.
Galea also administered ultrasounds and intravenous drips on 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 players’ identities but are in contact with investigators and cooperating.
“We obviously have a very strong interest in learning who these players are and about their involvement with any prohibited substances so that we can enforce our policies,” Aiello said.
The players’ union declined comment.
Since September, Major League Baseball 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, Simms told The Associated Press. 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 Oct. 15 after a search warrant was executed at the Institute of Sports Medicine Health and Wellness Centre 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, and the doctor has said he prescribed anti-inflammatories to Rodriguez as the Yankee slugger recovered from hip surgery last year. Both superstar athletes deny receiving performance-enhancing drugs from Galea. - AP
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