Tie Domi lends support to sports doc seeking to avoid jail in U.S.

By Greg McArthur

In his final fight to avoid a U.S. prison sentence, Anthony Galea has turned to one of hockey’s most famous and feared enforcers for help.

Tie Domi, the third-most penalized player in NHL history, is one of more than 100 people who have filed letters of support for the embattled sports doctor, whose future and freedom is set to be fiercely debated in front of U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara in Buffalo, N.Y., on Friday.

“There isn’t a better healer in the world. That is why so many of the world’s best athletes seek him out,” the retired NHL forward wrote in a letter, which also details how Dr. Galea diagnosed Mr. Domi’s son with a hidden hip fracture.

In July, Dr. Galea pleaded guilty to importing misbranded drugs into the United States, and admitted that, over two years, he travelled to the U.S. about 70 times, lied to border guards and routinely injected professional athletes with unapproved and restricted drugs, such as human growth hormone, to help heal injured joints. Among the patients he treated were golfer Tiger Woods, former NFL rushing leader Jamal Lewis, and linebacker Takeo Spikes.

Prosecutors are asking Dr. Galea to serve 12 to 18 months in prison, a sentence that is consistent with the federal guidelines. But Dr. Galea’s lawyers are pleading with Judge Arcara to use his discretion and not send their client to jail.

Human growth hormone is barred by most professional sports leagues for its perceived performance-enhancing capabilities and is illegal to prescribe in the U.S., except for three rare conditions. However, Dr. Galea’s lawyers argue that the drug has “anomalous” legislative status, and point to a group of U.S.-based doctors who openly promote and prescribe the drug – including a surgeon who has patented an HGH joint-repair procedure.

In a written filing, the U.S. Attorney’s office accused Dr. Galea’s lawyers of playing down his illegal conduct.

“The government makes no comment on the defense’s reference to other doctors other than to make the general observation that not all unlawful conduct is or can be prosecuted,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Campana.