ZURICH (Reuters) - Bulgaria's weightlifters will be barred from this year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Friday rejected an appeal against a ban for numerous anti-doping violations.
In November the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF)sanctioned the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation (BWF) and fined it $500,000 after 11 lifters tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol.
While the ban remains in place, the fine is set aside, Swiss-based CAS said in a statement on Friday.
The Bulgarian weightlifting federation said it was pleased with CAS's decision to drop the fine.
“The decision fully satisfied the Bulgarian federation, for which dropping the fine was priority," the BWF said in a statement.
"This is the first case in history when a fine, imposed by the International Weightlifting Federation, is set aside."
In March, eight male and three female athletes tested positive at a training camp in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Asen Muradov, Ferdi Nazif, Vladimir Urumov, Stoyan Enev, Deyan Minchev as well as female athletes Nadezhda-Mey Tuy Nguen, and Maya Ivanova were suspended for nine months.
Former European champion Demir Demirev, 2014 European champions Ivan Markov and Ivaylo Filev and female weightlifter Milka Maneva were banned for 18 months as they were already suspended for doping.
Bulgaria has long been a world powerhouse in weightlifting, winning 12 Olympic titles between 1972 and 2004.
The Balkan country's athletes have also won 79 gold medals at world championships as well as 167 European titles.
But in recent years Bulgarian weightlifting has suffered repeated embarrassment due to doping cases and the national organization was temporarily stripped of its license in 2009.
A year earlier the country withdrew its team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing because of 11 failed doping checks.
Bulgaria's reputation was also tarnished at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney where the team were stripped of three gold medals and sent home in shame following positive drug tests.
Reporting by Martyn Herman in London; additional reporting by Angel Krasimirov in Sofia; editing by Ken Ferris