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Toronto sports doctor makes plea deal in high-profile U.S. felony charges

A Toronto doctor renowned for treating sports superstars such as golfer Tiger Woods and baseball player Alex Rodriguez has reached a plea agreement, according to court filings.

Court documents filed in Buffalo Friday reveal that Dr. Anthony Galea has reached a deal with prosecutors. He is charged with five felony offences in the U.S. and two less serious charges under Canadian customs and food and drug laws.

Calls to Dr. Galea's U.S. lawyer, Mark Mahoney, and to federal prosecutor Paul Campana were not returned on Friday. Details of the plea agreement will likely not be revealed until it is presented in court. Dr. Galea is slated to appear before Judge Richard Arcara on Wednesday in Buffalo.

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However, the deal almost certainly means that some U.S. and Canadian charges will be dropped and that any jail time Dr. Galea has to serve will be in one country or the other, but not both. Just as importantly, a plea deal would also mean that none of the athletes Dr. Galea visited will be called to testify at a trial, ensuring that their identities will remain shielded from public view.

In September of 2009, U.S. customs officials at the Peace Bridge in Niagara Falls pulled over Dr. Galea's assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, who admitted to authorities that she had made routine border crossings to provide drugs to high-profile athletes on her boss's behalf.

Her confession led to Dr. Galea being charged in the U.S. and Canada. Prosecutors alleged that he lied to border guards, and entered the U.S. 73 times to illegally practise medicine and distribute unapproved drugs.

Specifically, the authorities say that he was injecting certain athletes with human growth hormone in their knees in an effort to regenerate cartilage. Some clients were also treated with Actovegin, a derivative of calf's blood not approved for use in the U.S., and platelet-rich plasma therapy, a treatment that involves extracting blood from patients and re-injecting only the plasma.

None of the athletes who received the treatments are identified in the indictments. A number of sports stars have admitted being treated by Dr. Galea but all of them say they were treated for injuries, not receiving drugs to enhance athletic performance.

Human growth hormone is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency for its performance-enhancing effects, and is one of the few drugs in the U.S. that is illegal for physicians to prescribe off-label. By law, the synthetic drug, which is produced naturally in the body by the pituitary gland, can be prescribed for only a few select conditions, including growth-hormone deficiency in children and AIDS wasting.

Dr. Galea's treatments were allegedly lucrative. When U.S. Attorney William Hochul announced criminal charges against him last year, he told reporters that the doctor had billed three football players about $200,000 in total between 2007 and 2009.

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About the Authors
National reporter

Greg has been a reporter with The Globe since 2005. He has probed a wide variety of topics, including police malfeasance, corruption and international corporate bribery. He was written extensively about the Airbus affair, offshore tax evasion and, most recently, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his criminal ties. More

Public health reporter

André Picard is a health reporter and columnist at The Globe and Mail, where he has been a staff writer since 1987. He is also the author of three bestselling books.André has received much acclaim for his writing. More

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