Clemson coach Dabo Swinney revealed on Monday during a press conference ahead of the team's College Football Playoff date with Notre Dame in the 2018 Cotton Bowl that three Tigers had failed NCAA-administered drug testing. Standout defensive tackle and potential first-round NFL Draft pick Dexter Lawrence, offensive lineman Zach Giella and tight end Braden Galloway are the three members of the Clemson team that tested positive.
Swinney said that Lawrence, Giella and Galloway all failed an NCAA drug test that produced a "sliver of ostarine" in the results. Ostarine is a performance-enhancing substance used for muscle-building and is currently on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list. .
For the time being, Swinney said he's holding out hope that the "B" samples (which will immediately be tested before a suspension is handed down) will clear all three, noting that the players were stunned to hear the news and even "thought it was a joke." An appeal of the tests would not be heard until after the semifinal, meaning the players will be suspended by the NCAA for the Cotton Bowl if the B samples also test positive for the substance.
Should the B samples come back with positive tests, the players would each be suspended by the NCAA for a calendar year.
Swinney noted that the players have legal representation, and the test results from the B sample should be back Wednesday or Thursday.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said NCAA notified DT Dexter Lawrence, OL Zach Giella & TE Braden Galloway they failed drug tests with sliver of ostarine. Players thought it was a joke at first. More clarity to come with B sample later in week— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) December 24, 2018
While Giella has played just 114 snaps across 11 games this year, Galloway is the No. 2 tight end on the depth chart and Lawrence is a two-time First Team All-ACC selection at defensive tackle, and one of the top three or four players on this year's team at any position. The surprise that Swinney communicated during the announcement gives Clemson fans a reason to believe that No. 90 might still be on the field when the Tigers kick it off against Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon in Dallas, but the uncertainty should be a wake up call for the rest of a defensive line that might need extraordinary performance to capture a national title.
"And, again, I don't know how -- if it even is in their system -- how it got there," Swinney said. "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 what we're dealing with."
No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame play at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 29 in the Cotton Bowl semifinal. The winner will go on to face No. 1 Alabama or No. 4 Oklahoma for the CFP National Championship.