Lessons From the Shlemenko Affair

Update – July 21, 2016 – according to Ken Pavia Alexander Shlemenko won his appeal and is free to fight

Ken Pavia Tweets

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This week the California State Athletic Commission handed out a three year suspension to Alexander Shlemenko who tested positive for prohibited PED’s following his last Bellator bout.

This is no doubt evidence of a changing of the guard in terms of how regulators are going to deal with drug cheats. Penalties will become increasingly heavy handed and that is a good thing.  There are lessons to be learned, however, from this affair and these are not limited to athletes.  Regulators need to understand that, given the serious consequences suspensions have on a fighter’s livelihood, integrity in the testing process must be in place and due process during regulatory hearings is imperative.  Here the California State Athletic Commission fell short on both counts.

The Shlemenko hearing, which begins at just past the one hour twenty minute mark of the below video is worth reviewing.  The commission all but mocks Shlemenko for choosing to be represented by a lawyer and even make comments that demonstrate fettered discretion with minds appearing to be made up prior to full submissions being digested.  The proposed penalties against Shlemenko were apparently far more lenient initially only turning more punitive in the days prior to the requested hearing.  The testing process leaves much to be desired as well with the evidence establishing that the CSAC did not collect a B sample despite their contract with the testing facility requiring this to be conducted.  Whether or not collection of a B sample is required under the California regulatory scheme, a question a Court will likely ultimately answer as Shlemenko has indicated he is seeking to judicially review the ban, it is clear that the CSAC has no set objective standards in place outlining the required steps needed for drug sample collection and testing.

Regulators should have a clear legislative framework for the PED tests they are allowed to conduct, a clear set of penalties for those who fail them, firm standards in place for the integrity of the collection and testing process and lastly respect for due process rights of athletes who hold the State to their statutory burden of proof.

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