On Christmas Eve Dabo Swinney announced a bit of a bombshell when he told the media that Dexter Lawrence along with two other Clemson players were currently suspended pending appeal for the Cotton Bowl due to a failed NCAA administered drug test. The trio all tested positive for a banned substance but have appealed with their suspension pending the results of a test on their “B” sample this week leaving their status in doubt.
Lawrence is the only starter among the trio who are currently appealing their suspensions. Reserve offensive lineman Zach Giella and tight end Braden Galloway are the other two players.
“We do have an issue that we are dealing with and I think the best thing is to just be transparent,” Swinney said Monday. “On Thursday, Dan Radakovich (Clemson AD), was notified by the NCAA that we had three guys (where) there was an issue with their drug testing.”
The issue that Clemson is dealing with is all three players drug test samples tested positive for trace amounts of a substance called ostarine which is a banned “anabolic” agent with no approved FDA uses. According to some quick research, it can be found in supplements without being listed in the ingredients. Star Arizona basketball guard Allonzo Trier was suspended earlier this calendar year for having a trace amount of ostarine in his system as well.
Swinney was quick to defend his players and to lay out exactly where the process is with their appeals.
“I think the biggest thing is to make sure that everyone understands – I’ve had guys fail drug tests before. Usually when you say a guy fails a drug test people write their own stories and have their own innuendos and their own narratives and those types of things and a lot of times those things are accurate,” he said.
“But in this case I think it’s very important that the message is accurate and the truth is told because these are three great young men that I believe in and that I know, without a doubt, have not intentionally anything to jeopardize their opportunity or this team,” Swinney said confidently. “I want to make that clear before I even give you their names because I know that’s the story.”
The failed test for each was their “A sample” or the first test. When a test is appealed a “B sample” is also tested and that is where we are at now. The players should find out the results for those tests Wednesday or Thursday. Swinney went on to say that there is an appeals process after that but it wouldn’t help them this weekend. Then he rather presumptuously said it might help for next week before realizing he should also say “or next year”.
If the “B sample” comes back positive for any or all of them, they will not be available for Saturday’s Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame. Of three, Lawrence is obviously the most important to Clemson and really the only one whose status will really have an impact on the game. Lawrence is a projected 1st round NFL Draft pick and is part of Clemson’s fearsome defensive line. Should he not be available for the Cotton Bowl, the Tigers will be down one of their most disruptive interior linemen.
Ostarine appears to be one of those substances that is on the list of banned substances but also triggers false positives fairly regularly so there is still a good chance that Clemson has all three when the Cotton Bowl kicks off. For now, Swinney said that they are preparing for these suspensions as those these players are injured until the results of the “B samples” comes back. Either way, this is probably not the kind of distraction that Swinney was hoping for days before the Cotton Bowl.