TORONTO (AP) — A sports doctor at the center of drug investigations in Canada and the United States said Monday he treated Alex Rodriguez after the Yankees slugger had hip surgery last year and prescribed anti-inflammatories but not human growth hormone.
Dr. Anthony Galea also told The Associated Press an assistant who was stopped at the U.S.-Canadian border in Buffalo, New York, last year was carrying only a minuscule amount of HGH — which Galea said was for his own use. The doctor reiterated that he has never given the drug to an athlete.
“I only brought enough for her to do two injections into me because I was away for two nights,” said Galea, who believes authorities and the media have exaggerated the accusations involving him and his practice.
“They made it look like I had 100 vials. I had one little vial and two doses were for me and you think that someone along the line would ask “‘Well how much is there?'”
Rodriguez and other high-profile baseball players including Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran have been contacted by U.S. federal investigators regarding Galea. Reyes and Beltran each say they did not receive HGH from Galea.
Rodriguez said last week he was “aware” of the investigation and plans to cooperate with the government. He declined comment again when asked about Galea after he left New York’s spring training game Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Galea said that he helped with Rodriguez’s rehabilitation from hip surgery last March.
“He had a damaged hip. Inflamed. It was damaged,” Galea said in an interview at his clinic. “He needed anti-inflammatories for his hip. I was basically helping in the rehab.”
The Yankees released a statement last Monday saying they never authorized Galea to treat the slugger. If Rodriguez was treated without club consent, any attempt to determine whether he violated his record $275 million, 10-year contract, its guarantee language or baseball’s collective bargaining agreement likely would hinge on whether treatment was elective or necessary.
A message was left Monday seeking comment from Dr. Marc Philippon, who performed Rodriguez’s hip surgery.
“The statement we released last week stands,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, refusing to elaborate.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig declined comment on Galea’s remarks.
“We have our own department of investigations and we have our own procedures,” he said before the Jackie Robinson Foundation’s annual dinner in New York.
A former doctor for the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, Galea is known for using a blood-spinning technique — called platelet-rich plasma therapy — designed to speed recovery from injuries. Among the athletes he has treated are golfer Tiger Woods, swimmer Dara Torres and several NFL players.
He is facing four charges in Canada related to the drug known as Actovegin, which is used as another healing technique.
The drug, extracted from calf’s blood and used for healing, is not approved for sale in Canada, but doctors can prescribe it if they inform patients about what it is. Using, selling or importing Actovegin is illegal in the United States; it is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The 51-year-old Galea says that he’s taken HGH — which is banned by the major sports — for a decade because it can improve the quality of life for people over 40.
He became the focus of authorities’ attention last year when his assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, was stopped at the border. U.S. federal court documents say “20 vials and 76 ampoules of unknown misbranded drugs including Nutropin (Human Growth Hormone – HGH) and foreign homeopathic drugs” were found in a car Catalano was driving.
But Galea said Catalano only could have had a tiny, half-empty bottle or one ampoule of HGH. An ampoule is a small sealed vial which is used to contain and preserve a sample.
He displayed such a bottle in his office: It was smaller than an adult’s pinkie finger.
“It’s so small,” he said. “If you’re going to give it to an elite athlete they would need a minimum of three bottles of this a week for six months.”
Galea was arrested Oct. 15 after a search warrant was executed at the Institute of Sports Medicine Health and Wellness Centre in Toronto. He is charged with selling Actovegin, conspiracy to import an unapproved drug, conspiracy to export a drug and smuggling goods into Canada.
U.S. court documents say Catalano waived her right to remain silent when speaking to border officers and admitted that she knew the items she was bringing into the U.S. were illegal and that she was doing it for her employer. She also told them that Galea admitted he had problems attempting to import the same items into the U.S. on previous occasions, according to the documents.
Catalano is cooperating with investigators and has a court hearing scheduled for Friday. Calvin Berry, her lawyer, said he’s confident they’ll drop the charges against her because of her cooperation.
Galea said the story of his case is being hyped up because some in the U.S. are resentful that a Canadian doctor is treating such high-profile athletes in Canada.
“There’s reasons people put legs on it. Obama’s trying to bring in a health care system like ours and the private sector is trying to say it’s a lousy system. It doesn’t look good if the icons of sports are coming up to a Canadian health care system,” Galea said.
“They want a story and they got it,” he said. “They already destroyed and embarrassed my children, embarrassed me.”