Marcos Ruiz is cleared to compete after his sample was destroyed ©Getty Images

A Spanish weightlifter who was provisionally suspended in May for testing positive - his nation's first doping case in the sport in eight years ­- is free to compete after a bizarre series of events led to his sample being destroyed.

Marcos Ruiz was officially cleared of any offence by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) this month and has been named in Spain's team for the IWF World Championships in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in November.

Ruiz, 21, the 105 kilograms European junior champion in 2016, was tested out of competition 10 days before last year's IWF World Championships in Anaheim, California, by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

USADA tested two thirds of all athletes who competed in Anaheim, a record level.

On December 8, four days after Ruiz had finished eighth with a career-best total of 391kg, the results showed he was positive for testosterone.

Due to a change of management of the case, and delays in the process, his "B" sample was destroyed by the American laboratory holding it and the case was eventually dropped.

Management of the case was handed over by USADA to the IWF on December 20, and on January 3 USADA informed Ruiz that the matter was now being dealt with by the sport's governing body.

"We understand the IWF did not correspond [with Ruiz] until May 2018," said a spokesperson for USADA.

"The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory discarded the B sample because the IWF's request to test it came after the three-month deadline to do so.

"Therefore, the B-sample analysis could not be conducted. 

"Obviously, this is a situation that should not have happened and must be cured in future situations."

The IWF said in a statement to insidethegames that it had requested the retention of Ruiz's sample within the three-month deadline.

The statement said: "Upon acceptance of the responsibility to conduct results management the IWF started to conduct the initial review [of the Ruiz case] further to Article 7.2 of the World Anti-Doping Code and corresponded with USADA, the laboratory and WADA throughout the process.

"The IWF was obliged to conduct the initial review in a prudent manner.

"The review involved multiple parties as the matter was a complex one.

"Some of the IWF requests for further information throughout the process were delivered with delay.

"The retention of the athlete's sample was requested by the IWF on March 13."

Ruiz was provisionally suspended on May 15, after the IWF's initial review.

"Further to its request for the analysis of the B-sample the IWF was informed by the laboratory on May 31 that the sample had been discarded," the statement continued.

"Following this the IWF continued to pursue the violation of article 2.2 (use or attempted use of a prohibited substance - no B sample confirmation needed), however after careful consideration it was compelled to close the case as it found that the requirements of article 2.2 had not been met."

It is believed to be the first time a doping case in weightlifting has been dropped because of procedural delays.

The IWF has used rule 2.2 - use or attempted use of a prohibited substance - in two other recent cases.

Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia is in fine form ©Getty Images
Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia is in fine form ©Getty Images

Nadezhda Nogay, 22, who won women's youth and junior world titles for Kazakhstan, and Elmar Aliyez, a 30-year-old 56kg athlete from Azerbaijan, are both provisionally suspended under the same rule.

The IWF can use "admissions by the athlete, witness statements, documentary evidence, conclusions drawn from longitudinal profiling or other analytical information" to support its case under rule 2.2.

Despite Nogay's suspension, the first by a Kazakh lifter in two years, Azerbaijan is on course to overtake Kazakhstan as the nation with the worst doping record in weightlifting.

Aliyev is the fourth Azerbaijani weightlifter to have been provisionally suspended since May 30.

Azerbaijan could have as many as 36 suspensions since 2008 when all outstanding cases are finalised.

Kazakhstan's athletes have served 31 bans in the 10 years since 2008 - the period in which violations count in determining how many Olympic quota places are awarded for Tokyo 2020.

Azerbaijan could be barred outright from Tokyo, as any country with three or more positives in a calendar year is liable to a ban of up to four years.

Oleksandr Pielieshenko, the 24-year-old Ukrainian who was European champion at 85kg in 2017 and fourth in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, has been suspended for eight years after a second doping offence.

Meanwhile Lasha Talakhadze, the reigning Olympic, world and European super-heavyweight champion, is gearing up for the 2018 IWF World Championships in great form.

Talakhadze lifted a clean and jerk of 264kg, one kilogram better then the world record set in 2004 by Hossein Rezazadeh. 

His total of 478kg was also an improvement of 1kg on his own world best - but as both efforts were in the Georgian National Championships rather than an international competition, they do not count as world records.

The man who was expected to be Talakhadze's closest challenger, the Iranian Saeid Alihosseini, will not compete in Turkmenistan because of a knee injury.

Kianoush Rostami, the Olympic 85kg champion from Iran whose injury problems led to "bomb-outs" in Anaheim last year and at this year's Asian Games, is also absent.

The over-105kg class will cease to exist at the end of October.

When the World Championships start in Ashgabat on November 1 new weight classes will be used - 10 classes each for men and women - with the men's super-heavyweights moving up from over-105kg to over-109kg.