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Taking Balco Approach, Authorities Interview Athletes Linked to Galea

Published: February 28, 2010

Following a strategy used by prosecutors in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative case, federal authorities are traveling the country to interview athletes who have been linked to the Canadian doctor Anthony Galea, who is under investigation for distributing performance-enhancing drugs.

In the Balco investigation, prosecutors used testimony from athletes they thought had been provided with performance-enhancing drugs to build their case against the suppliers. The suppliers eventually pleaded guilty.

The athletes were not the targets in the Balco investigation. But those suspected of lying to the authorities about their use of drugs — suspects that included Barry Bonds and Marion Jones — found themselves in legal trouble. Jones went to prison for perjury, and Bonds is awaiting trial on the same charge.

Investigators in the Galea inquiry are also looking to build a case against Galea and not the athletes he is believed to have supplied drugs to, according to people who have been briefed on the investigation.

But the athletes who are interviewed in connection with the case could face discipline within their own sports if the authorities choose to turn over evidence linking the athletes to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. And athletes who are judged to be dishonest by authorities could put themselves in legal jeopardy.

Galea, who is based in Toronto, has been charged by the Canadian authorities with conspiring to smuggle human growth hormone and other drugs into the United States. He has not been charged in the United States. He has denied that he provided professional athletes with performance-enhancing drugs but said that he had used human growth hormone for the last 10 years and prescribed it to some patients. Among the more notable athletes he has treated are the golfer Tiger Woods and the swimmer Dara Torres.

The investigation in the United States is being led by the federal authorities in the Buffalo area, where the case began when an assistant to Galea was caught transporting human growth hormone and other substances across the border. As part of the investigation, the prosecutors have uncovered evidence that several pro football players received performance-enhancing drugs from Galea, according to people who have been briefed on the investigation.

Mets shortstop Jose Reyes acknowledged Sunday that investigators had questioned him about treatment he had received from Galea. People who have been briefed on the investigation also have information that Alex Rodriguez was treated by Galea at some point and that Rodriguez is of interest to investigators. They said they did not know when, or how often, Galea met with Rodriguez.

One athlete who was treated by Galea in Canada was told by the doctor that he had traveled to New York to treat Rodriguez, according to a person who talked to the athlete afterward. Neither that person nor the individuals who have been briefed on the investigation wanted to be identified because the investigation is continuing.

As part of Rodriguez’s rehabilitation from hip surgery last March, he was treated by Dr. Mark Lindsay, a chiropractor from White Lake, Ontario, who has worked with Galea. It was Lindsay who monitored Rodriguez’s rehabilitation on behalf of Dr. Marc J. Philippon, an orthopedic hip surgeon from Vail, Colo., who performed Rodriguez’s surgery.

Attempts to reach Rodriguez’s lawyer for comment were not successful, and it is not known if the authorities have sought to interview Rodriguez, or done so.

When Reyes met with Galea last summer, he was accompanied by a member of the Mets’ medical staff. The team was concerned about him meeting with an independent doctor outside the country and wanted to monitor the procedure. At Galea’s office, Reyes had plasma replacement therapy for a hamstring injury that cost him much of last season. The procedure, which is not considered doping under baseball’s rules, is a specialty of Galea’s.

The procedure did not appear to provide much benefit for Reyes, who had surgery when the season ended.

Reyes said he was surprised that investigators wanted to meet with him. Reyes met with investigators without a lawyer. Instead, he was accompanied by one of the agents who represents him on contract issues, an indication that his agents do not think he is any legal jeopardy.

“They asked me if he injected me with that; I said no,” Reyes said, referring to performance-enhancing drugs.

“What we do there is basically is he took my blood out, put in some machine, spit it out and put it back into my leg,” he said, describing the plasma-replacement therapy.

“They called me in the morning and said they wanted to meet me,” Reyes said. “I mean, they said this is the F.B.I., and I said, man, what did I do wrong. I was kind of surprised a little, scared, but after that, they said should be no problem with me, it’s just an investigation. Right now I don’t worry because he don’t put nothing like that in my body. I know what he was doing with me, so I don’t have to worry about that because I know I’m fine.”

He added: “Everything is clear right now so it’s nothing to worry about. Now it’s time to play baseball.”

Reyes may have little to worry about. But as in the Balco investigation, other athletes will be meeting with the federal authorities in the coming weeks and asked about their interactions with Galea. Whether some of them become directly involved in the Galea case and are eventually linked to H.G.H. or other performance-enhancers remains to be seen.

David Waldstein contributed reporting from Port St. Lucie, Fla.

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