The surprising news that Clemson football got the day before Christmas wasn't exactly a gift.
Just a few days ahead of a crucial College Football Playoff semifinal against Notre Dame, Dabo Swinney and his team found out that the Tigers might be without superstar defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence.
He was one of three players who tested positive for trace amounts of a banned substance called "ostarine."
The drug is not approved for human use at this time.
This is not the first example of a prominent college athlete failing for ostarine. Former Arizona basketball star Allonzo Trier, now an impressive young guard for the New York Knicks, missed time after failing a test for the drug.
Lawrence, offensive lineman Zach Giella, and tight end Braden Galloway are having their "B samples" tested. If those fail, it will probably be too late for an appeal to change things ahead of the Cotton Bowl.
Dabo Swinney had a lot to say about the news about Dexter Lawrence and the other two Clemson football players.
He's sticking behind his guys, whom he said thought he was kidding when delivered the news.
Via Matt Fortuna of The Athletic:
"We do have an issue that we're dealing with. And, you know, I think that the best thing is to just be transparent in that. This time of year, they obviously do – I mean, we test all year long. But, on Thursday, Dan Radakovich was notified by the NCAA we had three guys that, you know, had a – there was an issue with their drug testing. And so been dealing with that since Thursday.
"And just – I think that the biggest thing is to make sure that, you know, everybody understands. Because I've had guys fail drug tests before. And, usually, when you say a guy fails a drug test, people write their own stories. And they have their own innuendos and their own narratives, and those type of things. And, a lot of times, those things are accurate.
"But, in this case, I think it's important, very important, that the message is accurate and that the truth is told because these are three great young men, three great young men, that I believe in and that I know, without a doubt, have not intentionally done anything to jeopardize their opportunity or this team. And I want to make that real clear before I even give you their names, because I know that's the story.
"But the letter that came from the NCAA said that these three young men had a [sliver], a trace of some substance called Ostarine. I have no idea what Ostarine is. O-s-t-a-r-i-n-e. But I have become almost an expert in it in the last three days. There's plenty of stuff y'all can look at. But I would be willing to bet that there's a likelihood that if they tested all of us right now, we might all or some of us have something in our system that we have no idea how it goes there – a slither, a trace, a fraction. All right?
"This particularly substance can come from anything. And these three players have no clue – in fact, they thought it was a joke when I called them. It could come from hair products. It could come from a cream. It could come from protein. It could come from a product that you order or buy online that you think there's nothing wrong with it. It could be anything. Literally, it could be a drink – something in a drink. It literally could be anything, as I have come to learn.
"And, in fact, I think there's been 40 or so athletes over the past year or so that have had to deal with this same exact thing. And several have later come back to be vindicated. They had no idea. Then they found out where it came from.
"So that's what we're in the process of doing. We're trying – we're going to do everything we can to figure out if its in the system. Heck, I don't know. I mean, who's to say that it is there? I mean, that's what we're being told, but there's – they all will have legal representation, and there will be a process to go through to find out.
"But where we are right now is we got the three letters. and they have the – this trace. And so the next step is there's a B sample. And the B sample, they will test that. And we probably won't know until Wednesday or Thursday on that. So we're just kind of at the mercy of the process. And then there's an appeal after that, but that desn't really help with this game. Maybe it helps for next week or, you know, next year, whatever. But that's what we're dealing with right now.
"But I want to be very clear that these guys, this is not street drugs. This is nothing like that. But the players are Braden Galloway, Zach Giella, and Dexter Lawrence.
"Obviously Dexter is a starter and a very, very significant player on our team. Even though Zach hasn't played as much and Braden is a freshman, they're still missing out on an opportunity that they have worked extremely hard for.
"And, again, I don't know how – 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. 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.
"But 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. So that's – I think it's just best, again, to be transparent and honest. Because I don't want there to be any speculation at all on waht we're dealing with.
"That's exactly what we're dealing with. And I don't really know what else I can say about it other than I love all three of these guys. They're three special young people. And, again, I know they've not intentionally done anything. And, again, this is a hair of a trace of whatever this substance is.
"And so 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."
Hopefully, for Clemson's sake, we learn more very soon. The Tigers play Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon.