BUFFALO, N.Y. – A Canadian sports doctor whose high-profile clients have included Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to charges he brought 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, conspired 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.
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.
The charges of smuggling, conspiring to lie to federal agents and defraud the U.S. government and distributing HGH were dismissed with Galea's plea.
Galea could get up to two years in prison.