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The Elusive Dr. Galea
September 27, 2010
Though he's facing federal growth-hormone charges and suspicions about his medical treatments, controversial Canadian physician Anthony Galea—healer of stars from Tiger to A-Rod—has never been more alluring to injured A-list athletes
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September 27, 2010

The Elusive Dr. Galea

Though he's facing federal growth-hormone charges and suspicions about his medical treatments, controversial Canadian physician Anthony Galea—healer of stars from Tiger to A-Rod—has never been more alluring to injured A-list athletes

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On a day-to-day basis, not a lot has changed for Dr. Anthony Galea. Sure, some Canadian pro hockey players have made themselves scarce at the Institute of Sports Medicine Health & Wellness Centre near Toronto since Galea hit the headlines late last year, but wait around the parking lot long enough and you'll run into a prominent athlete or two. Like 2008 Canadian Olympic high jumper Nicole Forrester. "They just don't know him," she says of Galea's detractors. What U.S. law enforcement officials know is that Galea—whose patients have included Tiger Woods, Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, former NFL running back Jamal Lewis and NBA star Chris Bosh—is a proponent of using human growth hormone (HGH) to help heal injuries. Galea's assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, was stopped by U.S. border authorities in Buffalo on Sept. 14 of last year while trying to enter the U.S. in a Nissan Rogue that was carrying a medical bag containing a synthetic human growth hormone, Nutropin, and Actovegin, a derivative of calf's blood that is not approved for use in the U.S. or Canada. Catalano has since been cooperating with U.S. and Canadian investigations of Galea and has told authorities that Galea directed her to bring the drugs into the U.S. On May 18 Galea was charged in a federal criminal complaint with intent to distribute human growth hormone, bringing Actovegin into the U.S. and making false statements to the Department of Homeland Security.

Catalano has identified at least eight professional athletes whom she says Galea injected with a mixture of substances that included HGH; seven received their injections in the U.S. and the other in Canada. According to court documents, authorities believe that one of Galea's standard procedures in treating athletes (in addition to his signature platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP) has been to add small doses of HGH to the syringes when injecting athletes with a cocktail of other substances. Court documents in Canada suggest that these injections have been such a routine part of Galea's treatment that "it is quite possible that some of the professional athletes are totally unaware of the fact that they were receiving unapproved drugs."

At least five professional athletes have been interviewed by authorities as part of the Galea probe. All the athletes who have been publicly linked to Galea, including Woods, Torres and Lewis, have denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs.

Galea was not allowed by his lawyer, Brian Greenspan, to speak with SI. Greenspan said that it's premature to respond to specific allegations, since the prosecution has not completed its disclosure, but that "no one in the world could ever suggest that Dr. Galea is involved in performance enhancement." Greenspan added that only two milliliters of Nutropin were found in the car, a small amount that he says were two doses for Galea's personal use. Though HGH is restricted to three very narrow medical uses in the U.S. and is banned in sports, it can be prescribed off-label in Canada (page 58). The 51-year-old Galea has admitted using it as an antiaging remedy to help him keep up with his wife, Nela, who is 22 years younger than he is.

Whether it's for HGH or PRP injections, or other treatments that he offers, Galea attracts a broad mix of patients—and business appears to be booming. Come to the I.S.M. Health & Wellness Centre on the right day and you can't help but notice, in addition to the stream of middle-aged men and parents with young athletes, the expensive cars with U.S. license plates: Porsches and Cadillac Escalades that belong to American pro athletes.

According to friends and colleagues of Galea, the media coverage of his alleged involvement with banned drugs has only increased the number of NFL players—currently two or three per week—and others who are seeking his services. "[Galea's] so busy now, the waiting list is like a year to see him," says Anthony Mascia, a radiologist in Toronto who works with Galea and accompanies him on morning bike rides. Mascia notes that Galea's clientele is still "90 percent recreational and adolescent athletes," including middle-aged men to whom Galea prescribes HGH for what he maintains are antiaging purposes.

Galea's rehabilitation work a decade ago with Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey helped catapult him onto the A-list of sports doctors. Bailey, the 1996 Olympic 100-meter champion and former world-record holder, ruptured his left Achilles in 1998 but came back less than two years later to run the 100 in under 10 seconds; he credited Galea for using therapies such as oxygen treatments in a hyperbaric chamber to help him recover.

Since then more and more sports stars have sought out Galea's services. Galea traveled to Florida—where he reportedly has been under investigation for practicing without a license—to give Tiger Woods platelet-rich plasma injections in his left knee after Woods had cartilage cleaned out in 2008. In PRP therapy, which was pioneered over the last decade by Dr. Allan Mishra of the Stanford University Medical Center, about two tablespoons of a patient's blood are removed and put through a centrifuge. This creates a concentrated dose of soft-tissue-healing platelets that is then reinjected into the patient. In part because no red blood cells are reinjected, PRP treatments are not considered blood doping.

Galea has said that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was also one of his clients. According to a person familiar with the investigation, Galea visited Rodriguez in New York several times before games last season and injected the slugger's troublesome right hip in the presence of his then girlfriend, Kate Hudson. (A representative for Hudson said Hudson "is not aware" of any such injections. Rodriguez's lawyer declined to comment.)

While many of Galea's U.S. athlete clients have been NFL players (reportedly including Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss), Bosh—a new member of the Heat's all-star trinity—went for what two sources close to Galea said were PRP injections last year when a left-hamstring injury caused him to miss Toronto Raptors training camp. Through his agent, Bosh said Galea's treatment helped him return in time for the season.

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