Clemson University

3 Clemson players, including star defender, fail drug tests ahead of Cotton Bowl

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Brian Kelly talk College Football Playoff

Clemson and Notre Dame will play in Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29
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Clemson and Notre Dame will play in Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29

Three Clemson players, including first-team All-ACC performer Dexter Lawrence, are facing suspension for the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame after failing drug tests.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters during a news conference on Monday, a day after the Tigers arrived in Dallas, and a team spokesman provided further context when reached for comment Monday afternoon.

In addition to Lawrence, freshman tight end Braden Galloway and junior offensive lineman Zach Giella are also facing suspension.

The NCAA notified the Clemson athletic department that the three players failed a drug test last Thursday after a trace of ostarine was found in their urine. A second “B” sample has been taken for each player, according to the team spokesman, and some clarity on a potential suspension should come Wednesday.

“We have to make sure everybody understands. It is important that the message is accurate, and the message is told,” Swinney said. “They are three great young men who I know have not done intentionally anything.

“The letter from the NCAA said they had a slither of ostarine. I have never heard of it, but we may all in this room have a trace of something in us. It comes from anything, and they thought it was a joke when I called them in. It comes from hair products, protein, something online, it could be anything.”

Swinney went on to state that the three players “will have legal representation.” Swinney is hopeful that the three will be cleared before the first round College Football Playoff semifinal game against Notre Dame.

“I don’t know if it even is in their system – how it got there. But I do know that these three young men have not intentionally done anything,” Swinney said. “And there’s, again, plenty of precedent where the same thing has happened across the country with other people. So, you know, there’s a process in place. And we’ll work through that.”

Lawrence would be the biggest loss for the Tigers as he is a three-time All-ACC performer and a potential first-round pick. If Lawrence is indeed out Albert Huggins would move into a starting role.

Huggins, an Orangeburg native, has played in all 13 games this season and has 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Huggins stepped up last year when Lawrence missed time with a foot injury.

“From a team standpoint, we have to get our team ready to play football. We got to get our team ready to play our best four quarters of the season. That’s our goal. So we have to prepare as if it’s an injury and get the next guy ready. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Swinney said. “We’ll deal with it accordingly, hope for the best, hope that the B sample will come back and they’ll be cleared to play. But, if not, we treat it as an injury. We’ve got to get ready to move forward. And our goal has not changed, just to play the best four quarters of the season.”

According to the Banned Substances Control Group, ostarine was “developed in the mid 2000s to help combat bone and muscle wasting in people suffering from a range of debilitating diseases and aging but is still being clinically researched and is not yet an approved drug. Ostarine is designed to activate the androgen receptor in a similar fashion to anabolic steroids. Because it produces strength gains similar to those of anabolic steroids without unpopular androgenic side effects, the drug has become a prevalent steroid alternative for bodybuilders and athletes.”

Clemson held its first practice at AT&T Stadium on Monday afternoon.

The Tigers will face Notre Dame at 4 p.m. Saturday in the College Football Playoff semifinal. This is Clemson’s fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

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Matt Connolly is the Clemson beat writer and covers recruiting and college sports for The State newspaper and The