DALLAS — One day after Dexter Lawrence's secondary drug test corroborated the NCAA's initial findings of a banned substance in his system, Clemson is preparing to take legal action.
Lawrence, the star defensive tackle who has been ruled ineligible for Clemson's game against Notre Dame on Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, got word last week that a trace amount of ostarine, an illegal performance-enhancing drug, was detected in his system.
Freshman tight end Braden Galloway and redshirt junior offensive lineman Zach Giella also tested positive for ostarine and can't play on Saturday.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Friday the school has begun the process of appealing the suspensions.
"(Athletic director) Dan Radakovich is kind of running with that with our legal team. They have representation," Swinney said. "Obviously, the timing of it is not very good for this game. If we were fortunate to be able to win the game, they'll do everything they can to see if there's an opportunity for next week if that were possible."
Clemson's legal team faces an uphill battle. The question was never really about a false positive as much as it was about how the ostarine got into the players' systems in the first place.
Lawrence was almost certainly headed to the NFL after this season anyway, and this suspension seems to only expedite that process.
The 6-4, 350-pound defensive star spoke out for the first time Thursday, when he sat down with reporters for more than 30 minutes. Citing his status as a team leader, Lawrence said he felt compelled to speak and maintained he did not know where the ostarine came from.
"I can say I’m not the type of guy to do a selfish act like that. I have too much pride. I love this team and my family too much to even think about putting a substance like that in my body," he said.
"I don't know where it came from, I don’t know how it got there."
A projected first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the question now turns to how teams potentially interested in Lawrence's services will view this suspension and how he will explain it to them at the NFL Combine.
The latter is going to be crucial for Lawrence, says national college football writer Pat Forde. Forde thinks it's possible Lawrence could still be a first-round pick if he both performs well and interviews consistently.
"He will have to convince teams that it was either an honest mistake or that it was a one-time mistake. Clearly, he has done his best to get out in front of the issue this week and I'm sure that was partly done with his NFL future in mind," Forde said.
"I think there's an unspoken tolerance of PED use in pro football, but any suspensions incurred by a positive test in the NFL are damaging — you're losing checks and hurting your franchise."
Galloway and Giella are facing a one-year suspension from college football.
"There's a longer runway, obviously, for the fall because there's other consequences other than just losing this opportunity (bowl game)," Swinney said. "So they'll handle that and deal with that and that's where it is."