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 in Buffalo, N.Y., 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 Galea isn't 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 the NFL, Major League Baseball and Professional Golfers' Association.
During that time, Galea billed three football players about $200,000, Hochul said.
The criminal complaint also accuses Galea 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 Galea, 50, 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 perfomance-enhancing substances banned by the league.
"This is an ongoing federal investigation, and we have not been informed of the identity of these players," an NFL spokesman said. "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. When we have had evidence of illegal purchase, possession or use of HGH, we have imposed discipline and are fully prepared to do so again if the facts support it.
"We have been in touch with law enforcement and will continue to cooperate with the federal authorities as the case moves forward. This case highlights the need for enhanced testing, and in our discussions about a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association, we have proposed expanding our current testing program to include growth hormone."
Beside the blood-spinning treatments, Galea administered ultrasounds, intravenous drips and "injections of drug mixtures into the sites of muscle tears," the ICE agent's affidavit, based on a witness statement, said.
"Dr. Galea would at times inject a cocktail containing HGH into an athlete," the affidavit said.
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."
The doctor 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 he was 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 weren't 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, and the doctor has said he prescribed anti-inflammatories to Rodriguez as the New York Yankees slugger recovered from hip surgery last year. Both superstar athletes deny receiving performance-enhancing drugs from Galea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.