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Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Galea treated athletes in eight cities

By Mike Fish
ESPN.com

Anthony Galea, a Canadian doctor charged in U.S. federal court Tuesday with smuggling and related drug offenses, frantically crisscrossed the country last summer and injected U.S. professional athletes with human growth hormone and other substances, according to legal documents ESPN has obtained from a Canadian court.

After an eight-month investigation, the Toronto-based physician was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed in Buffalo, N.Y., with smuggling, conspiring to lie to federal officials, unlawful distribution of HGH, introducing the unapproved drug Actovegin into interstate commerce and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

"The announcement today that a complaint has been filed in the United States District Court of the Western District of New York is obviously disappointing. It is regrettable that Dr. Galea, a world renowned and respected sports medicine physician now faces these further charges. However, as this matter is now before the court, it is not proper to comment further," Galea's lawyer, Brian Greenspan, said in a statement. "Dr. Galea looks forward to the opportunity to respond to these allegations at the appropriate time."

Galea, a go-to doctor for injured elite athletes, surfaced as the key figure in a U.S.-Canadian smuggling investigation soon after his executive assistant was flagged at the Buffalo border crossing last September with a bagful of medical supplies, including growth hormone.

According to documents obtained by ESPN, Mary Anne Catalano, the former executive assistant, identified 23 athletes during interviews with U.S. and Canadian authorities whom she said Galea treated in the U.S. between last July 22 and when she was stopped at the border Sept. 14. Catalano said she frequently accompanied Galea and met with athletes in "hotel rooms and their homes" to provide various medical treatments. Along with paying for the treatment, Catalano said the athletes also paid all travel expenses for herself and the doctor.

The pro athletes, some of whom had multiple visits from Galea, were not identified by name in legal documents. Their sport is also not identified, but it is presumed the majority are football and baseball players. Court documents filed Tuesday listed at least three unidentified NFL players.

Galea is alleged to have treated athletes in eight major U.S. cities last summer. His busiest destination proved to be Cleveland, where he cared for 11 athletes. According to Catalano, he also treated three athletes in New York during that time, as well as two each in Boston, Tampa, Fla., and Washington. He also visited athlete patients in Orlando, San Diego and San Francisco.

The legal filings do not spell out, however, if the individual athlete played for a franchise in the city in which he received treatment.

"This is an ongoing federal investigation and we have not been informed of the identity of these players," the NFL said in a statement Tuesday. "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. When we have had evidence of illegal purchase, possession, or use of HGH, we have imposed discipline and are fully prepared to do so again if the facts support it."

Regardless, the detailed information provided by Catalano -- let alone what authorities may have found sifting through office records -- spells trouble on multiple levels for Galea. He is not licensed to practice medicine in the United States, though he has gained notoriety in recent years for having treated well-known athletes such as Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods. And, along with the latest U.S. charges, Canadian authorities filed several charges against him last December, including selling an unapproved drug [Actovegin], smuggling goods into Canada and conspiracy to export drugs.

Catalano, a Canadian citizen, was charged with smuggling goods into the U.S. and later released on $10,000 bond. Charges will be considered for dismissal during a scheduled June 11 appearance in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.

"She continues to cooperate both with U.S. authorities and Royal Canadian Mounted Police," Catalano's attorney, Calvin Barry, said. "She does not face any charges in Canada, but she does have charges she has to straighten out down in Buffalo. It will be done in the next couple weeks."

In the documents obtained by ESPN, Catalano told authorities she witnessed Galea inject a cocktail mixture containing Nutropin [growth hormone] into the injured knees of "at least seven athletes" while in the U.S. There is no approved test to determine HGH use, but the substance is banned by the major professional sports leagues.

Some insight into what Catalano told authorities was provided in support of a warrant filed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to search Galea's office on the day of his arrest. Information on what was retrieved during the search on Oct. 15 remains unavailable, though the warrant indicated investigators were seeking computer files as well as patient, business and financial records.

Authorities said Catalano told them that Galea kept separate files on his professional-athlete patients, and in some instances billed them under a separate company called Galea Investments Inc. She also identified where in the Toronto office he stored HGH, which requires refrigeration, and Actovegin.

Actovegin, a drug extracted from calf's blood, is illegal in the United States and not approved for use in Canada. Presumably the smuggling charge arose from Catalano having told authorities that Galea had her travel to Germany in 2007 to purchase Actovegin from a pharmacy, with her also telling investigators that other employees and athlete patients had purchased the drug in Germany and brought it back for Galea.

Catalano told authorities that in his trips to the States, Galea typically performed two procedures on the athletes, both appearing to be an attempt to speed up healing. The first featured a cocktail mixture containing numerous medicines including Nutropin [human growth hormone], which would be injected into an athlete's injured knee. She described the cocktail as also containing Traumeel, vitamin B-12, Lymphomyosot and Procaine.

The other procedure was platelet-rich plasma therapy, whereby Galea would take blood from the athlete and separate the platelets from the red blood cells after putting it in a centrifuge. The platelets then would be injected into the injured area of the athlete.

Galea has himself admitted visiting Woods at his home outside Orlando four or five times last year, most recently last August, to administer PRP therapy to his left knee. Woods has confirmed being treated by Galea, while strongly denying any use of illegal or banned drugs.

According to documents, authorities got onto the trail of the Canadian doctor after Catalano, 32, was pulled over at the border crossing last year and a bevy of medical supplies was found in her 2009 Nissan Rogue, which was leased to Galea Investments. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents found 20 vials and 76 ampoules of unknown misbranded drugs -- including Actovegin, growth hormone and foreign-labeled homeopathic drugs -- 111 syringes, a diagnostic ultrasound computer and medical centrifuge.

Initially, Catalano told investigators the medical supplies were being brought into the U.S. for use by Galea at a conference he was attending in Washington. She soon recanted her statement, according to the documents obtained by ESPN, telling investigators the drugs were instead to be used by Galea during a scheduled appointment with an athlete in Washington later that day -- two people privy to the investigation identified the player as a member of the Redskins, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Catalano used work calendars and a spreadsheet she created to help retrace Galea's medical road show. She said Galea asked her to bring the drugs across the U.S.-Canadian border because he had been flagged previous times at the crossing.

Catalano told authorities she had made 23 border crossings within the previous six months and, according to documents, on each occasion transported "the same medical supplies" that were in her possession when she was stopped in September.

In last August alone, she told authorities that Galea made 13 stops in the U.S. to treat athletes. In three separate trips to Cleveland between Aug. 27 and Sept. 11, she identified 11 pro athletes he treated. Only two were identified with HGH therapy, while most of the others were said to have received a recovery IV drip containing various vitamins and Actovegin.

The presumably most lucrative patient for Galea, identified in documents as "Athlete B," was paid a visit by the doctor in New York on July 22, July 30, Aug. 6, Sept. 1 and Sept. 10. He is alleged to have received an HGH cocktail on the last three visits, including one specifically described as an injection in his knee.

Another patient in Cleveland, identified as "Athlete L," is described as having four HGH treatments between Aug. 13 and Sept. 11 -- also including at least one injection in his knee.

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN. ESPN reporters T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada contributed to this report.