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Naturopathic doc feels regret, but denies doping wrongdoing

A naturopathic doctor who practised at a Yaletown clinic until he unwittingly appeared in a hidden camera documentary on sports doping is speaking out after his suspension. Dr.
A screen grab from the Al Jazeera documentary “The Dark Side: The Secret World of Sports Doping” shows Dr. Brandon Spletzer (left) meeting with British ex-hurdler Liam Collins.

A naturopathic doctor who practised at a Yaletown clinic until he unwittingly appeared in a hidden camera documentary on sports doping is speaking out after his suspension.

Dr.Brandon Spletzer agreed to a 10-day ban by the College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. on March 22 after he admitted to importing and providing drugs not approved by Health Canada to Liam Collins, the British ex-hurdler who conducted Al Jazeera’s "The Dark Side: The Secret World of Sports Doping” expose.

Spletzer told a disciplinary committee that he felt pressured by Collins into making some statements, but the committee’s order said it “was concerned that these statements could be interpreted as a willingness by the registrant to engage in disgraceful, dishonourable, or unprofessional conduct.”

In the documentary, Spletzer is heard describing how he could hide a patient’s chart within his own file, in case the World Anti-Doping Agency came looking.

“He asked me a hypothetical question about how someone could get away with that,” Spletzer told the Courier. “Looking back that was a mistake with Mr. Collins and it’s something that I will be more careful with absolutely going forward. I am not an unethical person, I have never been.”

The college found Spletzer provided Collins two peptides not authorized for sale in Canada and a third that is approved for sale, but not within the scope of naturopathic physicians to prescribe. (B.C. allowed naturopaths to prescribe drugs in 2009). Spletzer must complete an ethics course by the end of July, be mentored by a senior naturopathic doctor, cooperate with random, spot audits and refrain from treating athletes who compete nationally or internationally until next spring.

Spletzer said he counselled Collins last May and October in Vancouver. The documentary said Collins, 37, was looking to mount a comeback for the Rio 2016 Olympics, but Spletzer said Collins originally told him that he was retired. “When we started working together I did not know that he was attempting to go back to Rio. At his age, too, it was not even on my radar,” Spletzer said.

“Look at what doping actually is, helping an athlete perform better for the purposes of cheating. If Mr. Collins was not competing and he wasn’t under any regulation by the anti-doping agencies, does that mean that what actually happened was doping or is this just a buzzword right now because of all the media attention surrounding Chris Colabello [the Toronto Blue Jays’ first baseman] and [tennis star] Maria Sharapova and all these people that are starting to get nabbed for finding metabolites in their urine?”

Spletzer said Collins had expressed a desire to join the fledgling Pro Med enterprise that Spletzer said was intended to offer second opinions to pro athletes who distrust their team physicians. One of Spletzer’s local Pro Med partners was pharmacist Chad Robertson, who claimed in an audio recording aired by Al Jazeera that he had “doped people” and boasted about evading detection. Robertson remains registered with the College of Pharmacists of B.C. pending an investigation.

Spletzer said that he has authored continuing education course material about brain trauma and specializes in treating motor vehicle incident concussion victims. His contract with Sage Clinic was cancelled the day after the documentary aired in late December. He still faces a probe by the State of Washington’s Board of Naturopathy. The WADA-affiliated Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport is also investigating.

“I’m not looking at working with athletes, I’m not looking at helping people cheat, it’s not my intention to help people cheat, it’s my intention to help people live longer, healthier,” Spletzer said. “I’d love to change people’s minds. I realize that’s not going to happen for everyone, I can only offer an apology for the optics, but what was shown wasn’t the reality of the situation. If people choose to believe that that was reality, that’s their choice, if people choose to believe it was what it was I’d thank them for that, I just look forward to getting back on track.”