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Sports medicine doctor faces day in court Add to ...

Two weeks ago, Tony Galea was basking in professional glory.

Gathered around the doctor that day at his office were some of the wise men of sport medicine, including colleagues from Harvard University. They were in Toronto to learn of his abilities and the methods that have made the 48-year-old specialist one of the top practitioners in Canadian sport.

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With pride, he showed them around the premises. Then, came the knock at the door.

At least eight RCMP officers, armed with a search warrant, also wanted to see his office. Only, they weren't there to praise Galea.

Before the day was done, the Mounties would leave with medicines, which Galea admits he had arranged to be brought in from Germany, and the doctor himself would be hauled off to the RCMP detachment in Milton, Ont., for several hours of further interrogation.

There, the man who had treated Olympic gold medalist sprinter Donovan Bailey and hurdler Mark McKoy and two-time hurdles world champion Perdita Felicien was accused of violating three federal statutes pertaining to the importation and selling of medicines not approved in Canada.

Galea must appear in Ontario Court of Justice on Dec. 18.

According to a document provided yesterday by Galea's lawyer, Christophe Preobrazenski, the RCMP is investigating Galea for alleged offences under three federal acts: Unlawfully selling a drug contrary to Sec. 9 (1) of the Food and Drugs Act; smuggling goods for which importation is controlled or regulated, contrary to Sec. 159 of the Customs Act; and conspiracy to commit an offence, contrary to Sec. 465 of the Criminal Code.

The conspiracy charge, according to Preobrazenski, relates to Galea arranging with a colleague to have medicines brought into the country which have not been approved by Health Canada.

There is some confusion about whether Galea has been formally charged.

"There's provisions under the Criminal Code where somebody can be provided a court date in anticipation of criminal charges being laid," RCMP spokesman Sgt. Marc LaPorte said yesterday. "Our investigation is still ongoing in this matter and we have not laid criminal charges."

This was surprising news to Preobrazenski, who showed The Globe and Mail the document of recognizance given to Galea upon his release in Milton on Oct. 15.

Galea signed the document, on the line that identifies him as "the Accused." He was required to sign the paper in order to gain his release from custody, Preobrazenski said.

"If you sign an undertaking to appear in court, you've been charged," the lawyer said.

According to Galea, the investigation came about after an assistant brought a quantity of what he described as "homeopathic" medicines into Canada from Germany, for use in Galea's practice.

One of the medicines in question is Actovegin, made by the Swiss-based manufacturer Nycomed. It is a deproteinized derivative of calf's blood popular on Europe's professional cycling circuit. It was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency on the basis of being a potential blood-boosting agent with the property of increasing oxygen-carrying capacity.

Actovegin is the largest-selling medication in Kazakhstan.

Galea says the police action is the result of a "misunderstanding," arguing he is permitted to administer such medicines under the guidelines of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

Kathryn Clarke, senior communications co-ordinator for the College, said in an interview Galea is correct in saying he could, under certain circumstances, treat a patient with medicines not approved by Health Canada - provided the patient is fully informed and consents to its use.

"The College recommends that physicians not prescribe to their patients drugs that have not been approved for use in Canada," she said, citing the College's published policy.

Using an unapproved drug is possible, but the process of informed consent "is more complex and involved," Clarke said.

The day before the raid on Galea's office, the doctor treated 2009 world figure-skating silver-medalist Patrick Chan of Toronto - one of Canada's top hopes for Olympic gold at Vancouver in 2010 - for a tear in his left calf muscle.

There is no evidence to connect the raid with Chan's treatment. Galea said the athlete did not receive any of the medications brought in from Germany.

The skater's treatment is called PRP, an injection of his own red blood cells into the injury site.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy involves spinning a patient's own blood in a centrifuge, and red platelets - about four times the normal concentration - are injected back into the patient's muscle. It is believed this method speeds healing.

The treatment is only permitted under international anti-doping rules with the appropriate paperwork, known as a Therapeutic Use Exemption.





 

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