Thursday, July 8, 2010
Galea assistant won't aid league probes
By Mike Fish
The former assistant to a Toronto doctor accused of injecting pro athletes with healing substances, including human growth hormone, isn't likely to cooperate with potential investigations by the athletes' pro sports leagues.
Mary Anne Catalano admits to having made at least 20 trips across the U.S.-Canadian border last year, bringing with her medical supplies and drugs that she often would later witness being injected into injured NFL players and other pro athletes, so her first-hand accounts might figure to be a gold mine for league investigators. But her attorney said he'd recommend his client not cooperate with independent investigations into physician Anthony Galea unless required by the federal government.
"She won't speak to the pro leagues," prominent Buffalo attorney Rodney Personius told ESPN.com. "If the issue comes up, I'd go to the government to see what they say. The smart athletes should come forward and talk about their role. The writing is on the wall here."
Personius suggested the athletes' identities could eventually surface should the legal cases against Galea end up going to trial. Canadian officials charged Galea, 51, last October with several drug-related offenses, while U.S. authorities in Buffalo later filed a criminal complaint accusing him of smuggling, conspiracy to lie to federal officials, unlawful distribution of HGH and introducing the unapproved drug Actovegin into interstate commerce.
Catalano, whose arrest last September triggered the investigations, pleaded guilty last month in Buffalo federal court to making false statements after being stopped by U.S. border agents at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry. The plea agreement reached with the government requires her to testify before any grand jury proceedings -- which, in the case of Galea, could come this month or next -- and at trial, as well as cooperate with any local, state or federal authorities designated by the U.S. attorney's office.
The agreement makes no reference to cooperating with outside or independent investigations, such as those conducted by the National Football League or Major League Baseball. Asked if Catalano, 32, could be required to cooperate with an outside investigation, Barbara Burns, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo, declined comment, saying only "What is in document is in document."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined to discuss the league's interest in speaking with Catalano.
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney refused to specifically discuss Catalano, though he added, "We'll talk to anybody."
According to legal experts and investigators, plea agreements typically require only cooperation with governmental investigations, but an exception is noted in the case involving former steroids supplier Kirk Radomski. Although it wasn't specifically spelled out in his plea deal, the federal prosecutor's office in San Francisco required Radomski to cooperate with Major League Baseball's investigation, headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
As part of his cooperation, Radomski was also required to turn over canceled checks and banking records to Mitchell's investigators. The Radomski evidence provided the basis for much of the information contained in the Mitchell report.
The decision on Catalano's cooperation ultimately rests with the U.S. attorney in Buffalo, William J. Hochul Jr., though there is no indication he'll follow the lead of prosecutors in the Radomski case. And, if he did, it is unlikely Catalano would be made available to outside investigators until the federal case against Galea is resolved.
Personius said he has not heard from any of the pro league investigators.
"There is the whole cooperation section [in the plea agreement], but I don't at all interpret that as obliging her to cooperate with Major League Baseball or any of the other leagues," Personius said. "Nor do I anticipate that the government would require that. Nor that they could.
"It would be my position she doesn't have that obligation. And I don't see any real upside to getting in the middle of that. It is more of her time. There is partly a philosophical issue to it. And beyond that, it is probably more publicity, which is the last thing she needs."
Catalano, a University of Waterloo graduate and an athletic therapist, is the central witness in the pending cases against Galea. According to documents previously obtained by ESPN.com, Catalano identified 23 athletes during interviews with authorities whom she said the Toronto-based doctor treated in the U.S. between last July 22 and when she was stopped at the border in September.
Catalano said she carried drugs and medical supplies into the U.S. for Galea after he'd been flagged by border agents, telling authorities she frequently accompanied the doctor when he treated athletes in "hotel rooms and their homes."
During interviews with federal agents, Catalano said she witnessed Galea inject a cocktail mixture containing Nutropin [growth hormone] into the injured knees of "at least seven athletes" during trips across the border. Catalano also revealed that last Aug. 27, at Galea's request, she traveled to Cleveland and delivered HGH kits to two athletes. She said Galea charged $1,200 for each kit.
There is no approved test to determine HGH use, though the substance is banned by the major professional sports leagues.
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com.