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When Dr. Anthony Galea, a Toronto sports doctor, admitted smuggling human growth hormone into the United States, one of the people sitting in the Buffalo courtroom was a representative of Major League Baseball.

Even then, 18 months ago, baseball was looking into reports that Alex Rodriguez, one of Galea’s clients, was using performance enhancing drugs – again.

Rodriguez, who was viewed at the time as a witness, not a target, of the federal investigation, had been brought to Buffalo the year before for questioning as part of a grand jury investigation into Galea.

Wednesday, just a day after a Miami newspaper linked Rodriguez and several other players to banned substances, it was clear that baseball’s interest in the New York Yankees’ power-hitting third baseman has evolved into a full-blown and very public investigation.

“We are always extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances,” Major League Baseball said in a statement. “We are in the midst of an active investigation and are gathering and reviewing information.”

How the Galea investigation, overseen by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Buffalo, fits into baseball’s investigation is unclear, although Rodriguez’s name was among the first to surface when Galea was charged.

“To the extent that the government reached out to him in connection with the Galea investigation, he was cooperative,” said Patrick J. Brown, the Buffalo defense attorney who represented Rodriguez at the time.

Rodriguez, 37, known as A-Rod, has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003 but was not a target of the Galea investigation. Nevertheless, Major League Baseball is believed to be interested in what he said here.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment Wednesday, and, by all accounts, their investigation into banned substances is believed to be closed.

Baseball, meanwhile, is moving forward with its investigation in the wake of a Miami New Times report linking six players, including Rodriguez and Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, to banned substances such as human growth hormone.

The New Times said the report was based on medical records that it received from an unnamed former employee of Biogenesis of America, a now-closed anti-aging clinic run by Anthony Bosch. The records include handwritten notes listing specific athletes and the drugs they may have received, according to the New Times.

Rodriguez’s name appears 16 times, according to the New Times, and the records indicate he paid for human growth hormone, testosterone cream and IGF-1, another growth hormone banned by baseball.

The authenticity of those records, some of which the New Times posted online, has yet to be determined, and Rodriguez has issued a statement denying he was a patient there.

“The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch [is] not true,” Rodriguez’s publicist said in a statement. “He was not Mr. Bosch’s patient, he was never treated by him, and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story – at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez – are not legitimate.”

Bosch’s lawyer, Susy Ribero-Ayala, also issued a statement denying the allegations and contending that the New Times report “is filled with inaccuracies, innuendo and misstatements of fact.”

“Mr. Bosch vehemently denies the assertions that MLB players such as Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez were treated by or associated with him,” she said.

In a 2009 interview, Rodriguez admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003 but insisted he had not used them since then.

Later that same year, one of Galea’s employees was caught trying to smuggle drugs across the Peace Bridge – she later cooperated with federal authorities – and it was only a matter of few months before Rodriguez was identified as one of Galea’s clients.

Prosecutors said his client list also included golfer Tiger Woods, football player Jamal Lewis and former Buffalo Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes, now with the San Diego Chargers.

Galea eventually pleaded guilty to smuggling charges but continued to insist that he never provided Rodriguez, Woods or his other professional sports clients with banned substances for the purpose of performance enhancement.

Galea, who is believed to have told federal authorities about his treatment of Rodriguez, was sentenced to a year of probation.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com