|Dr. Anthony Galea enters the U.S. Courthouse in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday. The Canadian physician pleaded guilty to a charge that he brought unapproved drugs into the United States to treat pro athletes. (DOUG BENZ/Reuters)
BUFFALO - Controversial sports doctor Dr. Anthony Galea pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony charge of introducing misbranded drugs -- human growth hormone HGH and Actovegin -- to treat 20 pro athletes in the U.S.
The 51-year-old Toronto physician is now facing up to two years imprisonment and an additional fine, provided he co-operates with the authorities continuing their investigation, said assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Campana.
U.S. district court judge Richard Arcara will hear sentencing submissions on Oct. 19 and he's free to impose whatever punishment he desires.
Galea, who is not licensed to practice in the U.S., admitted he treated NFL and Major League Baseball players by travelling to 13 cities, including Cleveland, New York, Miami, Orlando, Washington, D.C. and Boston between February 2007 and September 2009.
The doctor, who operates the medical practice called Institute of Sports Medicine in Toronto, gave patients one of a number of banned treatments.
The treatments include anti-flammatory injections containing Actovegin, a substance derived from calf's blood, which is not approved in the U.S. or Canada. He also performed plasma rich-platelet (PRP) treatments, which involves extracting blood from a patient spinning it in a centrifuge to separate the plasma from the red blood cells, and re-injecting that plasma into the patient to accelerate healing.
It is not considered blood doping.
He worked with a mixture of Actovegin, Traumeel, and vitamin B12, as a treatment for injured muscles, and injections of Nutropin and other substances to treat joint inflammation.
Campana told court Galea brought between $30,000 to $70,000 worth in unapproved or misbranded substances into the U.S., disguising them or carrying them in foreign-language labelled containers.
Galea billed patients $800,000 and he has agreed to forfeit $275,000. He could also be fined between $4,000 and $40,000.
Arcara repeatedly pressed Campana to divulge the names of the pro athletes.
Finally, Campana mentioned golfing superstar Tiger Woods, former NFL rushing leader Jamal Lewis and linebacker Takeo Spikes.
"He admitted to not only bringing in unapproved substances into our country repeatedly, but he also practiced without a licence, supervised the criminal conduct of others, and obstructed justice" by having his assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, lie that she was attending a medical conference, said U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr.
Catalano will be sentenced on July 25 and she's facing probation.
Galea's lawyer, Brian Greenspan, said his client's guilty plea confirms "there was never an allegation he administered performance enhancing drugs. He was simply healing sports-related injuries."
The substances are banned by major pro sports leagues and defined as performance-enhancing by the World Anti-Doping Authority.
Greenspan said his client never profited by the cross-border practices, simply "making it a wash" for the foregone fees he would have received at his Toronto clinic if he hadn't travelled to the U.S.