Tennessee baseball refutes ESPN announcer’s Evan Russell PED claim

Tennessee baseball emphatically rejected false claims made by an ESPN announcer Friday night that starting catcher Evan Russell had failed a drug test due to performance enhancing drugs and was suspended for the remainder of the season.

“Evan Russell’s absence last night had nothing to do with any violation of team, NCAA, or SEC rules,” a UT spokesperson said in a statement Saturday.

Russell missed Tennessee’s 10-0 win against Alabama State in the NCAA Tournament opener on Friday because he was dealing with anxiety and stress, his father said on social media.

A source told Knox News on Saturday that Russell is available to play Saturday against Campbell in the winners bracket game. Russell had a meeting with UT head team physician Chris Klenck on Saturday morning and was cleared to play.

ESPN announcer Troy Eklund, a former Arkansas outfielder, made his false statements Friday night during the broadcast of Oklahoma State’s 10-5 win against Missouri State, going so far as to say Russell was done for the year and the entire team would be subjected to drug tests, neither of which is true.

Announcers later reported Vitello’s postgame comments about Russell being sick, but continued to refer to “reports and speculation,” as if there was another reason for Russell’s absence.

UT has “been in contact with ESPN,” a spokesperson said. “ESPN is handling the situation and we are expecting a public apology from them later today.”

“I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to Tennessee’s Evan Russell and the Volunteer program for inaccurate, unsourced information I used Friday night during the Stillwater Regional,” Eklund said during Missouri State vs. Grand Canyon on Saturday. “It was used in error and should not have been referenced. I regret any hurt or harm that it might have caused.”

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