The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) says it expects to announce a final decision on Bulgaria’s appeal against an Olympics ban on its weightlifters by the end of January.
The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) confirmed last month that the country’s athletes would not be able to compete at Rio 2016, owing to multiple positive doping cases during the qualification period.
The Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation (BWF) is also unable to enter the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires and has been fined $500,000 (£334,000/€460,000) after 11 of its athletes were found to have committed anti-doping rule violations.
"The CAS is expected to issue its decision by the end of January 2016," read a CAS statement.
"Until then, the qualifications for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will not become final."
In August, the 11 athletes in question were banned from competing at this year’s World Championships in Houston after the CAS upheld punishments imposed by the IWF.
Eight male and three female weightlifters tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol at a training camp for the European Championships in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.
Asen Muradov, Ferdi Nazif, Vladimir Urumov, Stoyan Enev and Deyan Minchev, as well as female athletes Nadezhda-Mey Tuy Nguen and Maya Ivanova, were suspended for nine months.
Former European champions Demir Demirev, Ivan Markov and Ivaylo Filev and female weightlifter Milka Maneva were banned for 18 months as they were already suspended for doping.
Despite struggling to find suitable replacements for the banned weightlifters, Bulgaria still competed at the World Championships last month and finished 21st in the team standings, failing to win a medal.
Boris Kolev, the BWF's lawyer, is confident the ban will be overturned, thus granting three spots for Bulgaria at Rio 2016.
"Bulgaria's chances of participating in the Olympics are very good because this punishment contradicts existing International Weightlifting Federation regulations," he was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters.
Bulgaria has won a total of 36 Olympic weightlifting medals, including 12 golds, marking it out as the country's second strongest sport at the Games behind wrestling.
The BWF was temporarily stripped of its licence due to doping among weightlifters in 2009, a year after it had withdrawn its team before the start of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games following failed tests for 11 of its members.
Bulgaria's team was also sent home in shame from the Sydney 2000 Games, where it was stripped of three gold medals.
December 2015: Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation files appeal at CAS against Rio 2016 expulsion
November 2015: Tokyo 2020 sports director "very much respects" IWF's decision to ban Bulgarian weightlifters from Rio 2016
November 2015: Exclusive: Bulgarian weightlifters banned from Rio 2016 after 11 test positive