Alex Rodriguez is expected to visit Buffalo today, but this will be no pleasure trip for the baseball superstar.
The New York Yankees' power-hitting third baseman, known as A-Rod, is scheduled to be interviewed by federal prosecutors and agents about his dealings with a Toronto physician who is the subject of a grand jury investigation here into performance-enhancing drugs.
Five sources close to the case said Rodriguez is considered a witness -- not a target -- of the investigation. They told The Buffalo News that Rodriguez is one of about 10 professional athletes the feds plan to question about treatment they received from Dr. Anthony Galea.
But the investigation still has the potential of causing problems for the athletes, including Rodriguez, who admitted publicly last year that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003.
"Investigations like this put professional athletes between a rock and a hard place," said Paul Finkelman, a professor at Albany Law School who is an expert on legal issues involving sports and drugs.
"If players lie, they could be criminally prosecuted for it. But if they tell the truth, and if they admit doing anything that is improper under the rules of baseball, they potentially could get into trouble with Major League Baseball."
The law professor was quick to point out that he has no way of knowing whether Rodriguez or any other player ever got substances from Galea that are banned by Major League Baseball.
Tight secrecy surrounds Rodriguez's planned visit. The U.S. attorney's office and federal agents all declined to discuss it Thursday.
"No comment on an ongoing investigation," said James H. Robertson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo office.
Two of Rodriguez's attorneys did not return calls seeking comment.
A third attorney for Rodriguez, Patrick J. Brown of Buffalo, said he had no comment.
The News reported March 5 that authorities hoped to question as many as 10 pro athletes, including Rodriguez, about treatment they received from Galea. In addition to Rodriguez, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, both of the New York Mets, have publicly acknowledged that they would speak with investigators in the Buffalo case.
So far, federal agents and prosecutors have made no allegation that A-Rod or any other athlete received performance-enhancing drugs from Galea.
One person who was willing to comment on Galea's dealings with A-Rod was Mark J. Mahoney, Galea's Buffalo attorney.
"I can tell you that [Galea] never gave performance-enhancing drugs to A-Rod or any other athlete. And the government knows it," Mahoney said. "I think the government is trying to scare these athletes into saying what they want to hear."
Galea, 51, a Toronto sports physician, is widely known for his treatment of pro athletes trying to recover from injuries. Rodriguez and golfer Tiger Woods are among his many former patients.
Last December, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police charged Galea with conspiring to smuggle human growth hormone and other drugs into the United States. He denies the allegations.
Galea is under investigation in Buffalo because his assistant, Mary Anne Catalano, was arrested at the Peace Bridge last September. She is accused of trying to smuggle human growth hormone into the United States for her employer, according to federal court papers.
Since her arrest, Catalano has cooperated with the U.S. attorney's office and investigators from Immigration & Customs Enforcement, the FBI and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Her Buffalo attorney, Rodney O. Personius, declined to comment except to say that charges are still pending against Catalano.
Rodriguez has said little about his dealings with Galea. He did tell reporters earlier this month at the Yankees training camp that he planned to cooperate with investigators, according to an Associated Press report.
With 583 career home runs, eighth on the all-time list, the 34-year-old Rodriguez is a 12-time all-star. He is widely considered one of the greatest players in baseball history.
Rodriguez's image took a huge hit when he admitted to steroid use during an emotional news conference in February 2009.
Rodriguez said he had used steroids earlier in his career but has not used them since 2003.
He was not suspended by Major League Baseball.
Will federal agents share any of the information they obtain in the Galea case with Major League Baseball officials?
Earl P. Gould, an FBI spokesman in Buffalo, said he could not comment.
"We have no comment," on that question or any aspect of the Galea investigation, Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said.
Rodriguez is expected to talk with federal agents and prosecutors, not the grand jury, and if that's the case, some observers think that it is a mistake.
"If I represented A-Rod, I would tell him to insist on going right into the grand jury, rather than being interviewed by federal agents," Finkelman said. "I would tell him to confine his statements to the grand jury room, because it is illegal to leak information that comes out in the grand jury."
In addition to Brown, A-Rod's legal team includes James E. Sharp of Washington, D.C., whose clients have included former President George W. Bush, and Jay K. Reisinger of Pittsburgh, a nationally known expert in sports law whose clients include Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.
The player: Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez.
Why he is here: To speak with prosecutors and agents conducting a federal investigation into performance-enhancing drugs.
The target: Dr. Anthony Galea, a Toronto doctor who denies providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.
Potentialexposure for Rodriguez: Could face problems with Major League Baseball if authorities determine he received banned substances from Galea.