Lewis says that in recent years he recommended Galea to teammates. He says he would fly to Canada for treatment because Galea "couldn't do the plasma injections in the States," where he does not have a medical license. But there seems to be a link between Galea and the city in which Lewis played his last two NFL seasons. According to Canadian court documents, of the 25 athletes that Galea treated in the U.S. between July 22 and Sept. 14 of last year, 11 were treated in Cleveland.
To hear people who know him tell it, Galea is an intensely spiritual man. His devotion is to whatever he believes aids healing and to a higher calling, not to United States regulations.
In the final chapter of his 2007 e-book, Dr. Galea's Secrets to Optimal Health—Body and Spirit, Galea writes of his spiritual awakening. After being raised Catholic in the Toronto area, he writes, he became intensely focused on establishing a medical practice and "with my scientific mind I explained away spirituality." In May 2001, after three sleepless nights in his Toronto condo, Galea felt a sudden urge to travel to Jerusalem. A week later, sitting by himself in a small chapel on the Mount of Olives, he says he reconnected with God.
Now a fierce Zionist, Galea volunteers time and equipment and is a major fund-raiser for the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, the largest rehab hospital in the Middle East, and one that treats wounded Israeli soldiers. It was in Israel, where some medical regulations are less restrictive than in Canada and the U.S., that Galea arranged last year for then Oakland Raiders wide receiver Javon Walker to have a surgical procedure that is not approved in the U.S. and Canada to replace cartilage in his right knee. Walker credited the procedure with slashing his recovery time.
According to his lawyer, Galea has put his regular trips to Israel on hold and will stay in Canada while his legal fate is adjudicated. But Galea isn't entirely cut off from the Holy Land. On Sept. 12 a group of Israeli moviemakers and doctors attended a reception he hosted at the Toronto International Film Festival after the screening of Precious Life, a documentary about a Palestinian baby's fight for survival at the Sheba Medical Center.
At times, Galea talks about human growth hormone in spiritual terms. At his March lecture in Vancouver, Galea discussed HGH while his Power Point presentation flashed pictures of somber medieval monks, meant to bolster his rhetorical point. He said that the sports world is in the Dark Ages when it comes to the healing powers of HGH. "Because we deal with elite athletes and sports and Olympics," he said, "severe anxiety and fear has arisen because of what's known as Satan's drug—human growth hormone—which has been cloaked in a shroud of evil."
Large doses of Satan's drug can be powerful. A study of recreational athletes—not pros—published last May in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that regular injections of HGH could improve sprint time by .4 of a second over 100 meters. (The gap between Usain Bolt and last place at the 2008 Olympics was 0.34.) The improvement disappeared six weeks after the HGH was discontinued.
Microdoses of growth hormone given briefly during recovery—as Galea has allegedly done with patients—are a far cry from the regular and systematic injections that were administered in the study, however. And those tiny doses are becoming more popular. Says Mascia, who works with professional athletes from around the world, it's not uncommon for pros to get PRP "with different growth factors added in, and growth hormone is one of those."
The Galea case is a topic of serious discussion among doctors in Canada. Michael McKee, a professor of surgery at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, says the case has "brought the use of [growth hormone] into the spotlight." McKee adds that many uses of HGH in Canada that were probably not closely watched in the past "are now being scrutinized.
"I think people are now trying to define what the medical uses [of human growth hormone] are," says McKee. "Unfortunately, there's a lack of scientific data. There aren't a lot of good scientific trials looking at use in recovery from orthopedic injuries."