Since the recent Clemson announcement regarding the positive tests for anabolic agents by three of its players, there has been abundant wailing and gnashing of teeth, along with the usual twitter array of conspiracy theories and complaints of NCAA overreach.  Hair creams and tainted float tanks have been blamed in feeble attempts to excuse the results. Star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, as well as tight end Braden Galloway and Zach Giella, tested positive for the banned anabolic agent ostarine.  The three will be ineligible to play in the Cotton Bowl subject to confirmation testing of a B sample.

The rules are unambiguous

The NCAA bans anabolic agents, and ostarine specifically, as performance enhancing drugs.  The NCAA makes careful note that ostarine is not legal anywhere, and the USADA and WADA further note that it has no legitimate therapeutic uses.  Simply stated, there is no reason why any athlete, or any person, should knowingly ingest ostarine or a product claiming similarities to it.  Any athlete with any amount of this substance in their system is ineligible for intercollegiate competition.

Regarding so-called “accidental” contact with a banned substance like ostarine, the NCAA places the burden entirely on the athlete to know what is in any supplement the athlete may ingest.  It is made clear to all athletes in every sport that there is no approved list of supplements, and athletes are strongly encourage to exercise extreme caution with dietary supplements specifically. The NCAA warns athletes that dietary supplements are not well regulated, that there is a history of malfeasance in the industry, and that they are therefore required to review any supplement they desire to use with the designated member of the athletics department staff.  Again, the rules make clear that athletes are in control of what they consume and use, and they are entirely responsible for the outcome of any testing as such.

NCAA protocols specify that bowl games are within the purview of the NCAA Drug Testing Policy and mandate that the athletic director of a player’s institution will be notified of a positive test. The notice further advises that the B sample will be tested.  The institution is charged with notify the player immediately and securing the player’s preference for who he will have as his observer to the testing of the B sample. The B sample will then be tested by a WADA certified facility and its results shall be final.

The protocol states “[u]pon notification of the sample B positive finding, the institution shall be required to declare the student-athlete ineligible, and the institution will be obligated to withhold the student-athlete from all intercollegiate competition.”  There is an appeal process, however, the timely nature of the procedure effectively excludes an athlete from participation in a bowl game in all circumstances.

Save the complaints, Clemson will be just fine

As of this writing, the results of the B sample have not been made public.  While it would be unusual for a B sample test to contradict the original test (the test is of the same urine sample), it does happen from time to time.  Floyd Landis and Marion Jones were both saved from suspension briefly, rescued by the B sample.  In this sense Notre Dame center Sam Mustipher is right to be cynical in stating he’ll believe all this when Lawrence isn’t actually on the field.

But please save the complaining for something else.  Clemson will not be playing with 10 men on defense.  Albert Huggins (4*  315 lbs) and Nyles Pinckney (4* 300 lbs) make a formidable rotation at defensive tackle in Lawrence’s absence.  Most teams would consider themselves blessed to have those two anchoring the line.

As for complaints about the NCAA and its testing protocols, most fans should be more than aware by now that these standards are the international norm across all sports.  The WADA and USADA have made this their protocol for decades, and professional sports and the NCAA, while not signatories to the USADA mandate, nonetheless have adopted its protocol and have observed its prohibitions for many years.  “I didn’t know” hasn’t been a valid excuse in quite a while.