Clemson was so dominant in its national title game win over Alabama that many people forgot about the controversy surrounding the Tigers heading into the game.
Three Clemson players, including star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence as well as tight end Braden Galloway and offensive lineman Zach Giella, were suspended for both the College Football Playoff semifinal and the final game after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Lawrence in particular has been adamant about not knowing how the drug in question, ostarine, could have gotten into his system. As it turns out, the Clemson program itself may have been responsible.
Head coach Dabo Swinney told the Charleston Post and Courier it’s possible Clemson accidentally gave the players the substance, which is banned under NCAA rules.
“Oh yeah, I mean, there’s a chance that it could come from anything,” Swinney said in regard to the possibility that the football program exposed the players to ostarine.
“They’re going to test everything and look at everything. And that’s the problem. As you really look at this stuff, it could be a contaminant that came from anything, that was something that was cleared and not a problem, and all of a sudden, it becomes there was something.”
It’s relatively common for top programs to offer their players dietary supplements, though the NCAA does explicitly warn schools to be cautious and aware of what they are handing out, according to the Post and Courier.
Some of these supplements may contain unlisted banned substances, but it’s still the school’s responsibility to make sure what they are providing to players complies with NCAA rules.
While Lawrence has already declared for the 2019 NFL draft, Giella is coming off his junior season, and Galloway is still a freshman.
Both Giella and Galloway have been suspended for the entire 2019 season, though Clemson is appealing the suspensions.
The appeal was set to end in mid-February, but Clemson received a 45-day extension from the NCAA last week.
The Post and Courier says Clemson lawyers may use the “poor manufacturing practices” angle in trying to defend the players, as “the ostarine was part of an NCAA-approved supplement.”
“You can research articles, there are a lot of times when things are cleared and end up having a contaminant in it because of where it was processed, the factory it came from, whether there were other things there,” Swinney said.
“So there’s a lot of that. There’s a case out there that there was a contaminant at a testing lab. There are lots of different things and the legal people are involved in that,” he added.
Less than 20 Clemson players were tested prior to the College Football Playoff semifinal, and just those three tested positive for the substance.
Of course, if Clemson argues that it distributed a tainted supplement, then there’s a chance more players could have used the supplement, which might open up a whole new can of worms.
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