The Christmas Eve story that Dexter Lawrence was suspended for the College Football Playoff for ingesting the NCAA-banned substance ostarine seemed like a massive one at the time. Lawrence maintained his innocence, and it remained a talking point up until kickoff of the Cotton Bowl semifinal. And then the game started.
Clemson rolled through Notre Dame and Alabama by a combined score of 74-19 without its All-American defensive tackle, Lawrence declared for the NFL draft and the story seemed dead, more or less.
Except at Clemson, where it is very much an active story. The two players suspended alongside Lawrence, tight end Braden Galloway and offensive lineman Zach Giella, saw their suspensions extended for the entirety of the 2019 season, and Clemson has not, at least publicly, how the trio put the “trace amounts” of ostarine in their bodies. In fact, Dabo Swinney mused that Clemson may have given it to the players by mistake, which seems like a very big deal. Imagine if, instead of Galloway and Giella who were accidentally given the ostarine, it was Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne.
(Seriously, sit and imagine if Lawrence and Etienne were suspended for an entire season for accidentally taking banned substances and Clemson didn’t know how it got to them.)
While Clemson officials have been careful to forward an official explanation, Clemson fans were all too happy to fill in the blanks with their own theories. The Charleston Post & Courier obtained all ostarine-related electronic correspondence among the Clemson athletics department, which found multiple fan emails theorizing Lawrence, Galloway and Giella were the victims of food tampering.
As you might expect, the emails screech with the skin-crawling awkwardness that always appears any time someone brings message board jibber jabber to real life.
“With the expectations for Clemson to return to ACCCG, someone (maybe a food service worker or supplier) with bad intent had 12 months to plan a way to drop some powder on dessert or into a beef dish,” the fan wrote. “… Another scenario could be a local restaurant (near campus) that served beef with Ostarine. This is a stretch, but keep in mind NFL players have ingested steroids by eating at restaurants in Mexico.”
Considering fewer than 20 of the 125 players on Clemson’s roster were tested and only three came back guilty, the plot of a rogue, Clemson-hating food worker seems to have flopped.
And yet, misinformation will always rush to fill any void created by a lack of information, especially on the Internet, and just exactly how ostarine ended up in the trio’s respective systems remains a mystery.
Clemson said its 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.”
Until an official source is found and explained publicly, Clemson fans will continue their own work to crack the case — and then share it with Clemson officials.