A man who has a naturopathy degree from a controversial Kentucky Internet-based school and who treats some of the country's most prominent professional athletes -- including Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens -- is under investigation in Georgia for practicing medicine without a license.
Mack Henry "Hank" Sloan has been credited by athletes such as Owens with speeding their recoveries from injuries. In his book T.O., Owens even thanks Sloan for helping him heal rapidly from a broken leg so Owens could play in the 2005 Super Bowl.
In an interview with the Herald-Leader, Sloan said he has a naturopathy degree from Southern Graduate Institute, a distance-learning Internet school based in Falcon in Magoffin County. The school and its founder, Stephen J. Arnett, were the focus of an October 2006 Herald-Leader investigation, and Arnett is under investigation by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure. At least three other students who sought degrees through Arnett have been convicted as a result of treatments they performed on patients. The school was not accredited in the United States and the quality of the education it provided has been at issue in the criminal cases.
Dr. James McNatt, medical director for Georgia's Composite State Board of Medical Examiners, confirmed in an interview with the Herald-Leader Thursday that his agency is investigating Sloan. He said that in Georgia, the practice of naturopathy, or healing with natural substances, is not legal.
Earlier this week, Mike Fish, a reporter for ESPN.com, wrote about the Georgia investigation, saying that some of the country's most prominent pro athletes turn to Sloan when they need to heal fast. Those players include the Buffalo Bills' Takeo Spikes and Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis.
At his clinic in Cumming, Ga., near Atlanta, Sloan says he has treated as many as 10 to 15 players a week from 22 NFL teams with therapies that include natural non-steroidal injections to help regrow tendons and ligaments.
Kalimba Edwards, a defensive end for the Detroit Lions, told ESPN.com that he flew to Atlanta every other Tuesday for treatment from Sloan so he could play through a groin injury. Ed Hartwell, a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, visits Sloan each week, ESPN.com reported.
"Yeah, he's a doctor," Hartwell told ESPN.com. "He's an M.D. ... I know (he is). You see his stuff in his office and stuff. He's got it."
Sloan, 36, does not have a medical license. He told the Herald-Leader that he never presented himself as a medical doctor, only as a naturopath.
In his book, Owens describes in detail some of the treatments he receives from Sloan. They include hot laser treatments, hyperbaric oxygen treatments and injections. One injection, a type of prolotherapy, is a solution of dextrose, sugar water and the anesthetic procaine.
Owens could not be reached for comment yesterday. Officials from the Dallas Cowboys did not return phone calls Thursday from the Herald-Leader. Owens' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN.com that "I just know that my dealings with (Sloan) have been positive. And I think he does an excellent job. ... I have a high opinion of him."
Sloan spoke to the Herald-Leader before the ESPN.com story appeared. An employee in Sloan's office said he was out of town yesterday. Sloan's attorney, Montfort Ray, said he was unable to comment because of the medical board investigation, but that he hoped to speak about the allegations within a few weeks.
McNatt, the official from the Georgia Medical Board, said that, if Sloan is injecting chemicals into someone and diagnosing them, "that's considered practicing medicine."
McNatt said that depending on the outcome of the investigation, the board could issue a public cease-and-desist order against Sloan. If that order is violated, the case could be referred to criminal prosecutors. McNatt said Thursday that he could not discuss specifics of his agency's investigation.
Sloan told the Herald-Leader he has a European medical degree. He said that to get a naturopathic doctor degree from Arnett's Southern Graduate Institute in Magoffin County, "I took an equivalency exam."
Arnett founded the now-defunct Southern Graduate Institute in 2002. He also recruited students for the University of Science Art & Technology in Montserrat, West Indies, which is not accredited in the United States. Carla Konyk, director of administration at USAT, said yesterday that the school had not had business dealings with Arnett in three months.
Sloan told ESPN.com that he earned a doctorate in public health from USAT last year and that he's completing a master's degree in nursing from the Montserrat school. A Web site identified as USAT's had listed Sloan as a staff member in 2005. Konyk, however said she had no record of Sloan being a student or a staff member. Konyk said USAT did not have a distance-learning program.
The Herald-Leader investigation "Degrees of Harm" examined Arnett's role in recruiting students to treat patients, study in clinical settings or receive online medical degrees from various institutions. Three men who received their medical education through Arnett have been convicted of practicing medicine without a license -- one in Kentucky, one in Nevada and one in Rhode Island.
Arnett has been investigated by state and federal authorities but has never been charged with a crime as a result of his medical activities. He is not licensed as a medical doctor in Kentucky or any other state. Michael Rodman, assistant executive director of the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, said this week that the agency's investigation of Arnett is continuing.
Arnett's attorney, Stephen Owens of Pikeville, had not responded yesterday to written questions from the Herald-Leader.
Sloan told ESPN that he works under the supervision of a licensed physician when he gives patients injections and isn't breaking the law. The Georgia board is investigating the extent of that supervision, McNatt said.
The ESPN.com report also said that Georgia investigators have accessed a series of e-mail messages to a blogger. In the messages, Sloan said he was familiar with human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1. Both substances are thought to speed up muscle repair and are banned by professional sports organizations.
Sloan said in a later e-mail to the blogger that he has never given banned drugs to any player, using "only prolotherapy" and natural healing agents. Sloan told the Herald-Leader he sent the e-mail to explain a research project he had participated in. He said he did e-mail the blogger, but told the Herald-Leader: "I'm denying the accuracy of the remarks attributed to my name."
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