BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A Canadian sports doctor whose high-profile clients have included Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to bringing unapproved drugs, including human growth hormone, into the United States to unlawfully treat pro athletes.
Dr. Anthony Galea, a healing specialist from Toronto who was sought out by the biggest names in sports, was indicted by a federal grand jury in October on charges that he smuggled human growth hormone and other substances into the United States and lied to border agents to avoid getting caught. He faces similar charges in Canada.
Galea, who wasn’t licensed to work in the United States, was accused of treating 20 professional athletes at their homes, hotels and friends’ houses from October 2007 to September 2009.
The indictment did not identify any clients, but prosecutors said they included golfers, professional baseball and football players and others.
Galea, 51, pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara, eliminating the need for a trial — along with the likelihood that evidence and witness statements could publicly reveal information about who he visited or billed.
Galea, who is married with seven children, agreed to forfeit $275,000 before sentencing Oct. 19. He was released until sentencing, at which he could get up to two years in prison.
The doctor, who has a vocal cord disorder, answered the judge politely in a croaking voice and said he wouldn’t appeal.
Woods has said he’s been treated by Galea but didn’t receive performance-enhancing drugs. The New York Mets’ Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran also have acknowledged talking to federal authorities during the investigation.
Rodriguez, the New York Yankees’ star slugger, told Major League Baseball officials that he didn’t receive performance-enhancing drugs from Galea after the doctor told The Associated Press he had prescribed anti-inflammatories for him.
Prosecutors alleged some athletes received injections of HGH, banned by major sports, and Actovegin, a derivative of calf’s blood not approved for use in the United States. They also said some athletes were given intravenous Actovegin drips and platelet-rich plasma therapy, a treatment used to speed healing that involves extracting blood from patients and re-injecting just the plasma.
Galea was widely known for using platelet-rich plasma therapy. He became the focus of Canadian and U.S. authorities’ attention in September 2009, 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 is scheduled to be sentenced later this month after pleading guilty to a count of lying to border agents. As part of her plea, she’s been cooperating in the investigation.
The U.S. criminal complaint charged Galea with conspiracy, smuggling, distributing human growth hormone and introducing an unapproved drug into interstate commerce.
U.S. charges of smuggling, conspiring to lie to federal agents and defraud the U.S. government and distributing HGH were dismissed with Galea’s plea.
In October 2009, Canadian authorities charged Galea, the former team doctor of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, with selling Actovegin, conspiracy to import an unapproved drug, conspiracy to export a drug and smuggling.
Galea was accused of making multiple trips to U.S. cities from 2007 to 2009 to meet with athletes from Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the Professional Golfers’ Association and injecting at least seven with a drug mixture containing human growth hormone.
He was accused of injecting at least one NFL player with Actovegin and providing a retired player with human growth hormone after his playing days had ended. He billed three football players about $200,000, prosecutors said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)