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Sports doctor with ties to high-profile athletes pleads guilty

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A Canadian sports doctor whose high-profile clients have included Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to bringing unapproved drugs into the United States, including human growth hormone, that were used to treat professional athletes.

Dr. Anthony Galea, a healing specialist from Toronto who was sought out by the biggest names in sports, was indicted by a federal grand jury in October on charges that he smuggled human growth hormone and other substances into the United States and lied to border agents to avoid getting caught. He faces similar charges in Canada.

Most of the U.S. charges were dismissed with Galea’s plea, and he agreed to cooperate with investigators and disclose the identities of his patients and their treatments.

Galea, who wasn’t licensed to work in the United States, was accused of treating 20 professional athletes at their homes, hotels and friends’ houses from October 2007 to September 2009.

The indictment did not identify any clients, but prosecutors said they included golfers, professional baseball and football players and others.

Galea, 51, pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara to introducing mislabeled drugs into the U.S., eliminating the need for a trial — along with the likelihood that evidence and witness statements could publicly reveal information about who he visited or billed.

Prosecutors said Galea billed around $800,000 for his work in the United States and the value of the drugs and other substances used was about $30,000 to $70,000.

Galea, who’s married with seven children, agreed to forfeit $275,000 before sentencing Oct. 19. He was released until sentencing, at which he could get up to two years in prison.

The doctor, who has a vocal cord disorder, answered the judge politely in a croaking voice and said he wouldn’t appeal.

Woods, who recently announced he would skip the British Open next week because of “minor injuries” that haven’t fully healed, has said he’s been treated by Galea but didn’t receive performance-enhancing drugs. The New York Mets’ Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran also have acknowledged talking to federal authorities during the investigation.

Rodriguez, the New York Yankees’ star slugger, told Major League Baseball officials he didn’t receive performance-enhancing drugs from Galea after the doctor told the Associated Press he had prescribed anti-inflammatories for him.

The judge asked about other athletes linked to Galea. Prosecutors said all their names would have come out at trial but they included NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes and retired running back Jamal Lewis, who were treated by Galea but weren’t accused of any use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Representatives for Spikes and Lewis didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Prosecutors alleged some athletes received injections of HGH, banned by major sports, and Actovegin, a derivative of calf’s blood not approved for use in the United States. They also said some athletes were given intravenous Actovegin drips and platelet-rich plasma therapy, a treatment used to speed healing that involves extracting blood from patients and re-injecting just the plasma.

Galea was widely known for using platelet-rich plasma therapy. He became the focus of Canadian and U.S. authorities’ attention in September 2009, when his assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, was stopped at the border in Buffalo with a small quantity of human growth hormone, Actovegin and vials of foreign homeopathic drugs.

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