ESPN’s Troy Eklund apologizes after claiming Tennessee’s Evan Russell failed drug test

ESPN’s Troy Eklund apologizes after claiming Tennessee’s Evan Russell failed drug test

An ESPN broadcaster publicly apologized for falsely stating a Tennessee baseball player had failed a drug test and would be suspended the rest of the season.

Troy Eklund stated on air, during a Missouri State-Oklahoma State NCAA Tournament game Friday, that the Volunteers’ starting catcher, Evan Russell, had missed that day’s victory over Alabama State because of the drug test and would be suspended, leading to several denials from the school and people around it before eventually an apology.

“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 Saturday while announcing a Missouri State-Grand Canyon game. “It was used in error and should not have been referenced. I regret any hurt or harm that it might have caused.”

Tennessee told the Knoxville News Sentinel in a statement Saturday that Russell’s absence “had nothing to do with any violation of the team, NCAA, or SEC rules.”

Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello had told reporters that Russell was sick Friday. Russell’s father, Jason Russell, wrote on Twitter that Russell missed the game while dealing with “anxiety, stress and pressure.”

Russell was cleared to play a day later and contributed to a 12-7 win over Campbell, entering in the eighth inning and singling in the ninth.

Tennessee catcher Evan Russell
Tennessee catcher Evan Russell

“Thrilled to update that Evan Russell is feeling better and back with the team,” Tennessee athletic director Danny White wrote on Twitter. “Sad that over the last 24 hours this young man has had to endure speculation and criticism. In the future, I hope that the media will prioritize the health of our student-athletes over unfounded rumors.”

After Eklund apologized, Russell’s father tweeted: “your apology is appreciated and accepted. No anger in any form or fashion. God bless!!”

Russell, a graduate student, is hitting .299 with 13 home runs in 52 games this season for the top-ranked Volunteers (55-7).

Mark W. Sanchez

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