Dr. Anthony Galea, who treated elite athletes, loses licence for 9 months

TORONTO — A renowned Canadian sports doctor convicted in the U.S. for importing unapproved drugs will lose his medical licence for nine months and face a formal reprimand for professional misconduct, Ontario’s medical regulator ruled Wednesday.

Dr. Anthony Galea, 57, whose client list included golfer Tiger Woods and other stars athletes, was also ordered to pay the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario $21,500 in legal costs.

“With respect to protection of the public, the quality of Dr. Galea’s clinical care was not in question or at issue,” the decision states. “The central issue is that Dr. Galea’s conduct displayed fundamental dishonesty, which is a serious concern.”

Galea, who ran the Institute of Sports Medicine Health and Wellness Centre in west-end Toronto, was found guilty of professional misconduct more than a year ago.

Despite being unlicensed to practise medicine in the U.S., the doctor treated numerous elite athletes there, including football, basketball and baseball players between 2007 and 2009.

Evidence was that the former team doctor for the Toronto Argonauts and his assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, agreed to lie to American border officials about the true purpose of entering the U.S. with the medical supplies — which was to treat patients. Galea earned about $800,000 from the treatments, which occurred at athletes’ homes or in hotel rooms.

“Dr. Galea disregarded basic regulations requiring licensure in the jurisdictions in which he was providing care and used improperly labelled or non-FDA approved medications,” the committee said in its sentencing decision.

The panel expressed particular disdain for how Galea involved his assistant, considering it an aggravating factor. Catalano also ended up with a felony conviction in the U.S.

“The committee was appalled by Dr. Galea’s abuse of the trusting relationship he had with his employee, Ms. Catalano,” the decision states. “When she was arrested, Dr. Galea demonstrated callous disregard for her situation in not acting to make any immediate plans for his employee to be returned to Canada.”

At the same time, the committee said it found Galea to be “genuinely remorseful” and that it was unlikely he would reoffend. It also noted that he admitted responsibility from the outset.

Galea was widely known for a blood-spinning injury treatment, although prosecutors said some patients received human growth hormone, which is banned by major sports. Athletes sought him out for platelet-rich plasma therapy, a treatment used to speed healing that involves extracting blood from patients and reinjecting just the plasma.

His deceit came to light in September 2009 when American authorities arrested Catalano in Buffalo after she was found with various drugs and medical supplies. She later pleaded guilty to making a false statement and was handed a one-year probation.

Galea also pleaded guilty to the importing offence in July 2011 in New York and apologized to the American government, his wife and his assistant. He was sentenced in December 2011 to one day time served and a year’s probation. Canadian prosecutors charged him with various drug and smuggling offences in Canada, but those were stayed in 2012.

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