Alexander Shlemenko will be able to fight again in the United States much sooner than expected.
The former Bellator middleweight champion had his three-year suspension and $10,000 fine from the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) reduced in a court decision Wednesday, per court documents. Shlemenko tested positive for steroids in February 2015 and was levied the sanctions by a unanimous commission vote in June 2015.
The California Superior Court ruled that CSAC was only able to suspend Shlemenko until his license expired back on Feb. 28.. Shlemenko will also have to pay only a $5,000 fine. The Russian fighter's suspension will be lifted as soon as he pays the fine. Shlemenko is still under contract with Bellator, per promotion spokesperson Danny Brener.
Shlemenko's attorney Howard Jacobs argued that Shlemenko was unfairly given a three-year suspension when the initial letter of notification sent to him by CSAC read that he only faced a one-year suspension. The court agreed that CSAC was not legally able to increase the length of the sanction after the appeal process.
Shlemenko, 32, was initially fined $10,000, half due to him making alleged false statements on drug-testing documents. Jacobs argued that the commission rules state that fines can only be doled out if an athlete makes false statements on a license application. The court agreed with that as well and took $5,000 off the original fine.
However, Jacobs' arguments that CSAC was biased in its process and needed to make available a ‘B' sample as part of drug-testing protocol were rebuffed by the court. The decision to discipline Shlemenko was upheld.
The original sanctions came after Shlemenko tested positive for the steroid oxandrolone in a fight night sample collected in relation to his Bellator 133 main event fight with Melvin Manhoef on Feb. 13, 2015. Shlemenko's testosterone to epitestosterone ratio was 50:1, one of the highest recorded numbers in MMA history. The threshold in California is 4:1. Shlemenko beat Manhoef by second-round knockout. That result was overturned by CSAC to a no contest.
Shlemenko denied using performance-enhancing drugs at his his hearing in June 2015.
"The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) is pleased that the court upheld the doping violation of Alexander Shlemenko," CSAC executive officer Andy Foster said in a statement. "The court ruled that CSAC is not required to collect a ‘B' sample in order to prove the presence of banned substances. In addition, the court found that Shlemenko failed to demonstrate that CSAC was biased during the proceedings against him. CSAC proved its case in court and demonstrated that Shlemenko violated Cal. Code of Regs. title 4, section 303(c) regarding a positive test for a banned substance. Consequently, Shlemenko had an unfair advantage in Bellator 133 over opponent Melvin Manhoef. Shlemenko has not paid the fines and does not currently possess an active license to fight in California.
"We understand the court's decision to reduce the fine and suspension period for procedural reasons that in no way takes away from the seriousness of Shlemenko's offense."
Shlemenko (53-9, 1 NC) fought twice overseas during his suspension, both times for M-1 in Russia. He won both times against the same opponent, Vyacheslav Vasilevsky, the most recent one last month via second-round submission. Shlemenko held the Bellator title in 2013 and 2014, defending it three times. It's unclear if he'll be penalized by the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) for fighting while under suspension.