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Sports doctor's assistant admits smuggling drugs for her boss

By Cassie Spodak , CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Canadian doctor wasn't licensed to practice medicine in U.S.
  • Assistant carried drugs to clients in Washington, D.C.
  • Catalano pleaded guilty to making a false statement
  • Smuggling charge likely to be dropped, attorney says

New York (CNN) -- An assistant to Canadian sports doctor Anthony Galea admitted Thursday she brought human growth hormones into the United States for her boss more than 20 times.

Mary Anne Catalano, 32, of Toronto, Canada, pleaded guilty to making a false statement under a plea agreement that will likely result in the dismissal of a smuggling charge, her attorney told CNN.

She originally told authorities she was bringing medical supplies to a conference in Washington, D.C., where she would be meeting the doctor, but later admitted she was smuggling drugs to one of Galea's clients, according to the plea agreement.

Galea, who is not licensed to practice medicine in the United States, was charged last month in U.S. federal court with smuggling and related drug offenses. He has repeatedly denied providing human growth hormones to his clients.

Catalano testified Friday in Galea's trial.

Her attorney, Rodney Personius, told CNN that Catalano has known Galea for 17 years and never thought he would lead her astray.

The plea agreement says that Catalano admitted she previously medical supplies into the United States more than 20 times at Galea's request. He asked her to do so because he was not licensed to practice medicine in the United States and had previously been the subject of a border inspection at the Toronto, Canada airport.

Catalano was originally charged with attempting to smuggle drugs into the Unites States and making a false statement within the jurisdiction of the United States government.

Personius told CNN that although the smuggling charge is still pending, the plea agreement takes into account her cooperation with authorities and will most likely result in a dismissal of that charge.

Catalano now faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The minmum sentence is zero to six months in prison.

The investigation got under way last September, when Catalano was taken into custody departing Canada with Actovegin, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement that alleged Galea was planning to administer the drug to some of his patients outside Canada.

Actovegin, which some athletes consider to be a performance-enhancing drug, is a derivative of calf's liver blood and is approved for use in some European countries. A report at the website clinicaltrials.gov shows that it has been investigated as a possible treatment for nerve damage in diabetics, although it has not been approved for use in the United States.

On October 15 2009, Canadian officials executed a search warrant on Galea's medical facilities, the Institute of Sports Medicine Health and Wellness Center, and seized unapproved drugs believed to be Actovegin from the doctor's office, the RCMP statement said.

Galea was charged with selling an unapproved drug, conspiracy to import the drug, conspiracy to export and smuggling goods into Canada.

Galea has worked with Olympic athletes and professional baseball, football and hockey players, including Tiger Woods.

Brian H. Greenspan, Galea's lawyer, denied his client ever supplied any star athletes with performance-enhancing drugs and said his client would prove his innocence of all charges.

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