A month ago, invoking the name of superstar golfer Tiger Woods as one of his patients would have lent lustre to the medical practice of Tony Galea.
Instead, with the Canadian sports medicine specialist under investigation, his connection to the disgraced golfer has given his case the air of a sideshow and tainted his bid to portray his innocence.
European news articles led with the Canadian connection of the embattled golfer and yesterday representatives of U.S. news outlets crammed into the downtown Toronto office of Galea's defence lawyer Brian Greenspan, who proclaimed the doctor's only intent was to help and heal patients.
"If you're here to ask about Tiger Woods, that's not really the story today," he told a news conference.
"Tiger Woods happened to be a patient.. ... He [Galea]assisted in his rehabilitation program after his surgery and apparently was very successful in getting Woods to return to golf earlier than anticipated."
Galea, who helped Woods recover from knee surgery during four visits to Florida last year, is being investigated by the RCMP and the FBI. Though he doesn't face formal charges at this time, he may learn the details of possible charges at the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto's Old City Hall Friday.
Galea is suspected of supplying athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, such as human growth hormone. He is being investigated in Canada under at last three federal acts and the lawyer said there will be at least three charges, including conspiracy, which falls under the Criminal Code, and others under the Food and Drug and Controlled Substances acts. Greenspan said he couldn't conceive of the charges "being anything but minor" and added that he knows of no basis for the FBI "to lay any charges against Dr. Galea."
"It's tragic that it comes at a time when one of his patients is suffering through a media frenzy, which, as a result, has put him in the eye of the storm as well," Greenspan said, referring to Woods.
The doctor is well-known for an innovative but controversial therapy called platelet-rich plasma therapy in which an athlete's own red blood cells are concentrated when blood is spun at high speed. The blood is then re-injected into the patient with the purpose of accelerating healing of the athlete's injuries.
Greenspan said that the HGH was found in a bag belonging to the doctor when an assistant was stopped at the Canada-U.S. border in a car that had been used to transport the doctor on various trips. The hormone belonged to the 50-year-old Galea, Greenspan said, and was "a very small amount" for his personal use. The bag also allegedly contained Actovegin, a drug extracted from calf's blood, not available in Canada. Using, selling or importing Actovegin is illegal in the United States.
Galea was arrested in a raid on the Institute of Sports Medicine Health and Wellness Centre by the RCMP Oct. 15. The lawyer said that a hard drive from his computer and a medical device of some sort were taken from the clinic. Galea hasn't been in custody since the end of questioning by police Oct. 15. "He's in practice. He's travelled out of the country... and he gave a lecture at the University of Toronto about some of his practices."
Greenspan said Galea is "a distinguished doctor. All around the world, people look to him as a pioneer."
Galea will not appear in court on Friday, but is expected to be represented by Greenspan. "It will take about five minutes - three if it's me," the lawyer said. Asked if his client is innocent, he replied, "Absolutely. ... He looks forward to being vindicated. He's a physician who always has engaged in lawful practices."