Records: Assistant stopped at border

Updated: December 16, 2009, 2:01 PM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

U.S. Customs officials got onto the trail of a Canadian doctor who has treated Tiger Woods and a bevy of elite amateur and pro athletes after an assistant was found in possession of growth hormone and other drugs purportedly intended for Dr. Anthony Galea while being questioned Sept. 14 at a border crossing into Buffalo, N.Y., according to federal court records obtained by ESPN.com.

Galea, the subject of a joint U.S.-Canadian investigation, was subsequently arrested Oct. 15 in Toronto by Canadian authorities. Galea is expected to appear Friday morning in a Canadian court in Toronto, according to his attorney, Brian Greenspan, and face two charges of conspiracy and two other charges under the Food and Drug Act and Controlled Substances Act.

In a news release, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said an unnamed assistant was apprehended after she was found to be in possession of Actovegin, a drug extracted from calf's blood that is illegal in the United States and not approved for use in Canada.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Toronto criminal attorney Christophe Preobrazenski, who represented Galea at the time of his arrest, identified the assistant stopped by authorities at the Peace Bridge entry port as Mary Anne Catalano.

Catalano's Toronto-based defense attorney, Calvin Barry, confirmed Wednesday that Catalano is no longer employed by Galea.

Barry refused to shed light Wednesday on the drugs found in Catalano's possession or Galea's practice, citing the fact that she still faces criminal charges. He added that court documents filed so far in the case "speak for themselves."

"I take the position she did nothing wrong," Barry told ESPN.com. "Further, she is cooperating with the authorities -- the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- and we're going to have to let the court proceedings take their natural path."

According to federal documents, Catalano, 32, declared under questioning by U.S. border authorities that she had medical supplies in her vehicle. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents inspected her Nissan Rogue and found 20 vials and 76 ampoules of unknown misbranded drugs -- including human growth hormone -- and foreign labeled homeopathic drugs, 111 syringes, a diagnostic ultrasound computer, miscellaneous documents and a laptop computer. Agents notified investigators with the Food and Drug Administration.

"He was flying off to a medical conference or a meeting and she was driving, and she was going to meet up with him," Preobrazenski said of Galea, his former client. "That is all it is. This guy isn't some charlatan. We're talking about someone who is respected by his peers."

Catalano, who waived her rights before agreeing to speak with border agents, admitted she knew the items she was attempting to bring into the U.S. were "illegal" and that she was doing this for her employer, who is not identified in her case documents. She also told agents that her employer asked her to attempt to bring the items in because he had been flagged previous times at the border.

She told authorities she knew her employer wasn't licensed in the United States and that it would be illegal for him to administer inside the country. She added that they were to meet up after crossing the border into the U.S.

According to the criminal complaint, Catalano also revealed to agents that she'd been told by her employer that "if she was questioned about the purpose of her trip, she should say that they were coming to the United States for a conference with other medical professionals and that none of the equipment she was bringing into the United States was for treating patients."

Catalano, a Canadian citizen and physiotherapist, was charged with smuggling goods into the U.S., and she was released Sept. 25 on $10,000 bond. According to her case docket, charges will be considered for dismissal during a scheduled Jan. 12 appearance in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.

Asked about the level of her cooperation, Barry said, "She waived a right to a lawyer when she was in Buffalo, and she just cooperated and told what happened. She has been cooperative with authorities on both sides of the border. She has been cooperative throughout."

Galea has a client list that includes former Canadian Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter Donovan Bailey and hurdler Mark McKoy, as well as other prominent American professional athletes.

The agent for New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes told The New York Times in Wednesday's editions that Reyes underwent plasma therapy from Galea while sidelined last season because of leg injuries. Also, The Times, citing a 2007 Toronto Sun report, said then-Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Huston Street received oxygen treatment for a nerve problem in his elbow.

Galea has in the past acknowledged personally using HGH himself and in the treatment of some patients, though not with any athletes.

The Canadian sports medicine specialist has established a reputation for the practice of platelet-rich plasma therapy, a process in which blood is taken from a patient and later injected in an improved form into the injured or sore area of the body. It is believed to speed healing significantly.

"He is a healer, that's all," Preobrazenski said. "People immediately think that any doctor that deals with professional athletes is giving them performance-enhancing substances so they can cheat and be above the crowd. What this doctor is involved in -- all he does is accelerate and assist the healing process of the body. That is what this guy is about, nothing more."

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.

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