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Canadian and U.S. authorities shift sports doping probe to Vancouver naturopath

In one scene of the Al Jazeera documentary, naturopath Brandon Spletzer is shown with a table full of substances he had acquired for an undercover reporter, including peptides, banned in sports.

Authorities in Canada and the United States are moving to investigate allegations of sports doping facilitated by two Vancouver-area men.

The College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia has begun an investigation of Brandon Spletzer, a naturopath. Spletzer was featured in an Al Jazeera documentary in late December that looked at sports doping. In one of the scenes, Spletzer is shown with a table full of substances he had acquired for an undercover reporter, including peptides, banned in sports.

As the college investigates Spletzer, he will be able to continue to work. His authority to prescribe drugs, which had been set to expire at the end of December, was renewed for 2016. There is no mechanism to suspend a naturopath in B.C. while an investigation is under way.

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"The college cannot decline or suspend such registration or certification until after the completion of a formal investigation," said Howard Greenstein, CNPBC's registrar, in a written statement.

B.C. was the first province in Canada to allow naturopaths to prescribe drugs, in 2009. Several jurisdictions in the Unites States, including Washington State, allow the same. Ontario joined B.C. in 2015.

In Washington State, where Spletzer has been licensed since last June, the Department of Health is in the first stage of a potential investigation. The state Board of Naturopathy is the authority in charge that could potentially suspend a licence because of a threat to the public. Spletzer's licence remains active.

"We are actively pursuing this issue," said Susan Gregg, a Department of Health official.

Repeated efforts to contact Spletzer have not been successful.

Pharmacist Chad Robertson, whom Spletzer worked with, could also be investigated.

In the Al Jazeera documentary, Robertson, in one of his scenes, is heard saying he has doped people, and later is shown organizing the acquisition of substances banned in sports. The College of Pharmacists of British Columbia is putting together an inquiry committee, composed of three to five people. The group will look at available information and decide whether an investigation should proceed.

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A decision is expected soon, and college registrar Bob Nakagawa said an investigation is likely.

The college can ask the inquiry committee to consider a temporary licence suspension if there is a need to "protect the public," said Nakagawa.

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which oversees the country's anti-doping program, is also ready to look into the allegations. Its intelligence unit conducts interviews, but cannot compel people to speak.

"Our investigation capacity is not what the police might have," said Paul Melia, CEO of the centre.

Drug testing is key to the centre's work, but the intelligence unit has risen in importance. He cited international examples such as the Lance Armstrong and Russia cases, where positive tests weren't the primary factors.

"Some of the major breakthroughs in uncovering serious systemic doping have come as a result of investigations," Melia said.

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Efforts to contact Robertson have not been successful. At his townhome in Langley, a suburb of Vancouver, his father last Wednesday answered the door and declined comment beyond saying that Robertson was meeting with a lawyer.

Robertson works, or had worked at, a Shoppers Drug Mart in Abbotsford, an hour east of Vancouver. A pharmacy assistant there on Tuesday said she had no information and said the owner, Derek Obertas, was not available and was moving on from the location. A call to Obertas's home was not returned.

The pharmacy assistant referred Tuesday's call to the corporate headquarters of Shoppers Drug Mart in Toronto. A company spokeswoman was not available, and a request for comment from Shoppers owner Loblaw Cos. Ltd. was not returned as of early Tuesday evening.

Robertson graduated from the University of Alberta in Edmonton in June, 2006, with a bachelor of science in pharmacy. He registered in Ontario in September, 2006, and resigned that registration in April, 2014. He did not have injection training in Ontario.

Public records do not indicate when he registered in B.C., but they show that Robertson is authorized for injections.

In the Al Jazeera documentary, Robertson talked to the undercover reporter about needing up to 10 injections a day.

Robertson, in a 2011 interview, said he was working with the sports doctor Anthony Galea, who was found guilty in U.S. court the same year of importing a misbranded drug. Galea did not serve jail time.

Robertson said he and Galea were putting together "the most detailed compendium on growth hormone and its effects on all body systems."

A call to Galea's office was referred to his lawyer, Brian Greenspan.

"For Mr. Robertson to have suggested there was a collaboration is more than an overstatement, it's just inaccurate," Greenspan said on Tuesday.

Robertson also worked with Mark Lindsay, a chiropractor who has worked closely with Galea. Lindsay referred Robertson to Galea.

Galea and Lindsay are known to have worked with Tiger Woods in 2008 and 2009 to help Woods recover from a knee injury.

Galea consults on cases of many major athletes recovering from injury, Greenspan said. "He's a cutting-edge physician," Greenspan said. Galea and Robertson met only a couple times, and have never shared patients or consultations on patients, Greenspan added.

Robertson, while in Ontario, ran a small company that sold "two performance-enhancing and therapeutically potent topical creams." They were developed with Lindsay, with whom Robertson helped write a medical book. Robertson's company does not appear to exist any more.

Charles Poliquin is another person Robertson has said he was working with.

Poliquin, in a message exchange on LinkedIn, said he was asked to write a piece for Galea "on how training can foster GH [growth hormone] production." Poliquin said he wasn't sure if it made it into the book.

Poliquin said he has not heard of or spoken with Robertson since 2012.

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About the Authors
National correspondent, Vancouver bureau

David Ebner is a national correspondent based in Vancouver. He joined The Globe and Mail in 2000 and worked in Toronto and Calgary before moving to Vancouver in 2008. He has reported on a wide range of stories – business, politics, arts, crime – and has covered sports since 2012. More

Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. He joined the Globe and Mail in 1997 with an extensive sports background having covered Stanley Cup finals, the Grey Cup, Summer and Winter Olympics, the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the 1989 Super Bowl riot and the 1989 earthquake World Series. More


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