Anthony Galea receives no jail time

Updated: December 16, 2011, 5:14 PM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

BUFFALO -- Anthony Galea, a go-to doctor for injured elite athletes -- from golfing great Tiger Woods to baseball star Alex Rodriguez -- was sentenced Friday afternoon in a U.S. District Court to one year of supervised release but no jail time.

Judge Richard Arcara imposed the sentence on the Toronto-based sports medicine specialist who had earlier pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of bringing into the United States unapproved drugs, including human growth hormone and Actovegin.

Galea, 51, was the central figure in a U.S.-Canadian smuggling investigation, which found that he had come across the border into the United States to treat Woods, Rodriguez and dozens of other top-name pro athletes in the months prior to his 2009 arrest.

In handing down the sentence, Arcara considered federal guidelines recommending an eight- to 14-month prison confinement. Attorneys for Galea had argued that he not be incarcerated, contending that he wasn't a huckster using bogus drugs, but a "highly skilled physician using medicine that is used around the world for non-evasive and homeopathic treatment."

Arcara noted that Galea put himself above the law, but "a period of incarceration does not outweigh the benefits to his patients."

"No question he is paying a big price for his misdeeds," Arcara said. "He seems to have a genuine desire to be a healer. I believe his primary interest is healing injuries."

The judge also noted that Galea had forfeited $275,000 as part of the case. He also ruled that Galea cannot cross the U.S.-Canadian border without permission from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Galea refused to comment leaving the courthouse but approached lead prosecutor Paul Campana and wished him "Merry Christmas."

U.S. authorities originally charged Galea, who does not have a license to practice medicine in this country, with five felonies -- including smuggling performance-enhancing drugs across the border, conspiring to lie to federal officials, unlawful distribution of HGH, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and introducing the unapproved drug Actovegin into interstate commerce.

Galea also faces charges in Canada, though it's expected he'll face minimal additional penalty beyond what he received with resolution of the U.S. charges.

From the start, Galea's attorneys have argued that he was miscast as someone who dealt in performance-enhancing drugs. They estimate he uses HGH in the treatment of "maybe 1 percent" of his patients, and then solely as a healing agent. In pre-sentence filings, they also provided commercial advertisements and literature from U.S. physicians who openly promoted their use of the controversial drug.

"Everybody in the sports world has always defined performance enhancement as bigger, faster, stronger," said Brian Greenspan, Galea's Toronto-based attorney. "There is nothing about this that is bigger, faster, stronger. It is about healing and that is the extent of it."

As part of a pre-sentencing report filed with the court, attorneys for Galea submitted 123 letters from family members, patients, professional colleagues and athletics praising the doctor's personal and professional character.

Among those were an apology from Galea and testimonials from 1992 Olympic 110-meter hurdles champion Mark McKoy, former Olympic gymnast and NBC commentator Elfi Schlegel, and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, who said he was referred to Galea by former NFL running back Jamal Lewis.

The judge said Friday he was "impressed by the variety of letters -- peers, patients, everyday citizens."

Campana said of the judge's decision: "Sentencing is the judge's job. I am not surprised given all the letters of support."

McKoy, also Galea's business partner, wrote of his friend and physican of 20 years: "His diagnosis and treatments far surpass any doctor I have ever been treated by."

No current pro athlete linked to Galea, however, wrote a letter of support to the court.

The investigation of Galea was triggered in September 2009, when border agents found Mary Anne Catalano, the lead assistant in his Toronto practice at the time, in possession of a duffel bag-full of medical supplies and drugs as she attempted to cross the border near Buffalo.

Catalano initially told agents she was headed to a medical conference in Washington, D.C., where Galea was to speak, though she later admitted they were to meet in Washington to provide medical treatment to a professional athlete.

According to documents later obtained by ESPN, Catalano identified 23 athletes during interviews with U.S. and Canadian authorities whom she said Galea treated in the U.S. during a two-month period in summer 2009. Catalano told authorities she witnessed Galea inject a cocktail mixture containing Nutropin (growth hormone) into the injured knee of "at least seven athletes" while traveling with him in the United States.

Catalano avoided jail time when she was sentenced in July to unsupervised probation. Under sentencing guidelines, Catalano could have been sentenced to a year in prison, but federal prosecutors cited her cooperation in recommending probation.

The pro athletes have not been identified in court documents, though it is presumed the majority are football and baseball players. Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, former Galea patients and one-time New York Mets teammates, have acknowledged talking to federal investigators, though neither is accused of having used performance-enhancing drugs.

Reyes, who has a history of hamstring injuries, recently signed a six-year, $106 million contract with the Miami Marlins, while Beltran, who has been slowed by bad knees, is a free agent this offseason.

Rodriguez, the New York Yankees slugger, also told MLB officials that he didn't receive performance-enhancing drugs from Galea.

Among the items seized by Canadian authorities during a search of Galea's office were an "NFL file folder," "Professional Players Journal" and "daytimer with football dates." Also seized was a "CFL [Canadian Football League] folder."

As part of their plea agreements, neither Galea or Catalano is required by prosecutors to cooperate in any outside investigations conducted by the NFL or Major League Baseball.

MLB investigators Dan Mullin and Victor Burgos have approached Catalano's attorney, but to this point she has shown no interest in assisting them. With Galea's sentencing bringing a close to the case, it is expected security officials from the leagues will attempt to tap into what ever information is available.

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.

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