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Clemson ostarine suspension appeal denied by NCAA and what it means

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Clemson's Dexter Lawrence (second from right) stands with teammates before the College Football Playoff Championship Game against Alabama. Lawrence was not allowed to play after testing positive for ostarine. AP Photo/Ben Margot

Braden Galloway and Zach Giella, two of three Clemson football players banned from College Football Playoff games last season after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug ostarine, lost a drawn-out NCAA appeal.

They are ineligible for the 2019 season. Galloway, a tight end who caught five passes as a freshman in 2018, also loses a year of eligibility; he cannot count 2019 as a redshirt season.

Giella, a rising senior offensive lineman, has already had a redshirt year. He got 114 snaps as a reserve in 2018. 

“We are disappointed in the results of the appeal and continue to believe our student-athletes did not knowingly ingest any banned substances,” said an official Clemson statement released Friday. “The Athletic Department takes seriously its role in the education, testing and enforcement of supplement and performance-enhancing substances. We will continue to adhere to best practices with respect to supplement use by student-athletes and support the position of the NCAA in its testing for PEDs.”

Star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence also missed the Tigers’ postseason victories after testing positive for ostarine but left school as a junior and was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the New York Giants on April 25.

Clemson in January received an extension for its original appeal. The NCAA granted Clemson an additional 45 days.

Fewer than 20 Clemson players were tested in December before the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers had 119 players on their roster.

A Clemson in-house investigation began before the Cotton Bowl but the school has not released any findings.

Clemson stated Friday that its student-athletes have taken 329 tests for PEDs since 2014 and all results have been negative “except for the trace amounts found during the December 2018 tests.”

Clemson has refused to provide access to those test results.

Representatives of Galloway and Giella on Friday insisted the players unknowingly had trace amounts of the PED in their systems, have no idea where it came from and said the players will have no comment on the appeal process.

“Clemson maintains a rigorous education and testing program,” the school statement went on, “and all supplements are reviewed with Clemson Athletics Nutrition and Sports Medicine as well as the Clemson Compliance Office prior to approval for usage to ensure that no banned substances are included in the products.”

Ostarine is a PED not approved for human use and only intended for products that are illegal in the U.S. But manufacturers have been known to illegally put the drug into supplements and a U.S. Anti-Doping official told The Post and Courier ostarine sometimes accidentally gets into legal supplements.

The NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports heard the Clemson appeal via telephone. The Clemson side was led by a players’ attorney with available help from Clemson counsel.

The process is designed as a “blind” appeal in which NCAA officials theoretically are not aware of the school’s identity.

The Clemson case, however, was rare: NCAA records obtained by The Post and Courier show that approximately 1,110 athletes were drug-tested each year for championship events over the last three years with an average of fewer than 10 per year testing positive for PEDs on the NCAA’s banned list.

Lawrence has said he has no idea how the PED entered his system. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney in February told The Post and Courier the ostarine could have been given to the players mistakenly by the school.

Lawrence, a bright and jovial native of Wake Forest, N.C., told The Post and Courier in February that he was ready to answer PED questions at the NFL Combine or on visits to NFL teams.

“I do want to know how it got in my system and where it came from,” Lawrence said. “But right now, they are still doing their research to see where exactly it came from, and they don’t know where right now.”

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff

Gene Sapakoff is a columnist and College Sports Editor at The Post and Courier with focus mostly on Clemson, South Carolina, SEC and ACC athletics. But also golf, the Charleston RiverDogs, Atlanta Braves, Carolina Panthers. And food.

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