BUFFALO, N.Y. — A Canadian doctor who has treated Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez and other high-profile athletes was charged Tuesday with smuggling, unlawful distribution of human growth hormone and conspiring to lie to federal agents.
Dr. Anthony Galea of Toronto was named in a federal criminal complaint following an eight-month investigation by the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Food and Drug Administration.
A former doctor for the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, Galea is known for using a blood-spinning technique — called platelet-rich plasma therapy — designed to speed recovery from injuries.
But he is not authorized to work in the United States, U.S. Attorney William Hochul said, and is accused of repeatedly entering the country from 2007 to 2009 to treat professional athletes from Major League Baseball, the National Football League and Professional Golfers’ Association.
During that time, he billed three football players about $200,000, Hochul said.
The criminal complaint also accuses him of introducing the unapproved drug, Actovegin, a derivative of calf’s blood used to speed healing, into interstate commerce and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
“Today’s complaint reveals that those responsible for the flow of illegal drugs into our country can come from all walks of life,” Hochul said.
No athletes are identified by name in the government’s criminal complaint or supporting affidavit, which describes the 50-year-old Galea traveling to various U.S. cities to meet with athletes in hotel rooms and their homes.
The affidavit refers to three unidentified NFL players as witnesses, including one who allegedly received HGH from Galea after his playing days were over. The two other players said that while they were treated by the doctor, they carefully avoided receiving HGH or other performance-enhancing substances banned by the league.
One player, however, acknowledged receiving Actovegin injections from Galea, whom he saw weekly during football season and even more frequently when injured. Actovegin is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States.
Galea also administered ultrasounds and intravenous drips on patients, as well as “injections of drug mixtures into the sites of muscle tears,” an ICE agent’s affidavit said.
“Dr. Galea would at times inject a cocktail containing HGH into an athlete,” the affidavit said.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said league officials had not been told the players’ identities but are in contact with investigators and cooperating.
“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,” Aiello said.
The players’ union declined comment.
Galea became the focus of authorities’ attention last September when his assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, was stopped at the border in Buffalo with a small quantity of human growth hormone and vials of “foreign homeopathic drugs.”
Since then, MLB players, including the Mets’ Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, acknowledged being contacted by federal investigators about Galea. Both said they did not receive HGH from him.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Chris Simms has acknowledged being treated by Galea but was not contacted by investigators, Simms told The Associated Press. In December, Simms described the plasma injections Galea gave him in 2007 while he struggled to recover after having his spleen removed.
“If they want to talk to me, feel free,” he said in Nashville on Tuesday. “Listen. I’m a big fan of Dr. Galea. I think he’s a great guy. He’s helped thousands of people out, not just athletes.”
“He’s truly a great doctor,” Simms said. “I guess he’s made a mistake or two, and I feel bad for him.”
Simms said he has not violated any league policies.
“I didn’t do anything,” he said. “If I’m on HGH, I’m getting ripped off because I don’t really look the way I should with my shirt off.”
Separately, Galea was arrested in Canada on Oct. 15 after a search warrant was executed at the Institute of Sports Medicine Health and Wellness Centre in Toronto and charged with selling Actovegin, conspiracy to import an unapproved drug, conspiracy to export a drug and smuggling goods into Canada.
Calls to Galea’s Buffalo lawyer, Mark Mahoney, and attorney Brian Greenspan in Canada were not immediately returned.
If convicted of the U.S. smuggling charge, Galea could face up to 20 years in prison. The other charges carry maximum sentences of three and five years.
Woods has said Galea treated him, while the doctor has said he prescribed anti-inflammatories to Rodriguez as the Yankee slugger recovered from hip surgery last year. Both superstar athletes deny receiving performance-enhancing drugs from Galea.