Canadian sports doc assistant gets probation in NY

Posted July 25, 2011, at 7:21 p.m.
Last modified July 25, 2011, at 7:42 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A Canadian sports doctor’s assistant who cooperated with prosecutors on her role in bringing unapproved drugs, including human growth hormone, into the U.S. to treat professional athletes was given probation Monday for lying to border agents about medical supplies she was transporting.

Mary Ann Catalano could have drawn up to a year in prison for making false statements to federal officers, but prosecutors asked a judge to impose probation because of her help.

Catalano worked for Anthony Galea, a healing specialist from Toronto who was sought out by the biggest names in sports, including Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez. Galea pleaded guilty July 6 to bringing mislabeled drugs into the U.S. He could be sentenced in October to up to two years in prison.

Prosecutors said Catalano, 33, initially lied when she was stopped at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo in 2009, but quickly agreed to help investigators.

“This is a very easy sentencing. Ms. Catalano cooperated from the get-go. She admitted everything she did was unlawful,” said U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara. “The sentence of probation for one year is more than adequate for her crime. I think she’s suffered enough.”

Catalano wept as she told the judge she took responsibility for lying and “I knew what I did was unlawful.”

Defense attorney Rodney Personius said she bankrupted her own ideals because she was infatuated with the charismatic doctor and wanted to win his favor.

Galea, who wasn’t licensed to work in the U.S., was accused of treating 20 professional athletes at their homes, hotels and friends’ houses from October 2007 to September 2009. Prosecutors have not disclosed the names of athletes who may have gotten banned treatments.

Most of the U.S. charges were dismissed with Galea’s plea, and he agreed to cooperate with investigators and disclose the patients’ identities and their treatments. They included golfers, professional baseball and football players and others.

Catalano had worked in Galea’s office when she was 15, stayed in contact with him through college and went back to work for him at the Institute of Sports Medicine Health and Wellness when she graduated in 2004, Personius said.

As Galea developed a practice involving professional athletes in the U.S., she began accompanying him on trips across the border. She began driving separately and took on the responsibility of transporting the medical equipment and supplies after Galea had trouble with border agents leaving Canada, a court filing said.

She and Galea agreed that if asked by border officers about the supplies, she’d say they were for demonstration purposes at a medical conference.

As part of his U.S. plea agreement, Galea must cooperate with investigators in the future.

Galea admitted he traveled to the U.S. numerous times from 2007 to 2009 to treat professional athletes in Hawaii, Cleveland, New York City, Miami and elsewhere, despite not being licensed to practice in the country. Some of the treatments involved injections of human growth hormone, banned by major sports, and Actovegin, a derivative of calf’s blood not approved for use in the U.S.

Prosecutors 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.

Woods has said he’s been treated by Galea but didn’t receive performance-enhancing drugs. The New York Mets’ Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran have acknowledged talking to federal authorities during the investigation.

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

Galea, the former team doctor of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, also faces charges in Canada.

In October 2009, Canadian authorities charged Galea with selling Actovegin, conspiracy to import an unapproved drug, conspiracy to export a drug and smuggling. That case is still pending.

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