Fitzgerald Cecilio

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and Bulgaria's top wrestling coach Armen Nazaryan has started a hunger strike to protest the International Olympic Committee's move to drop the sport after the 2016 Olympics.

"The two-time Olympic champion will not eat until the start of the European Championship on March 22 in Tbilisi, Georgia ... and will only take juices," a statement from Bulgaria's wrestling federation said.

"Wrestling has always been on the Olympics program and it is not right to take it out. I sincerely hope that my action will convince the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to review its decision," Nazaryan said in a statement.

The 39-year-old Nazaryan won Olympic gold for his native Armenia in 1996 and for Bulgaria in 2000. He is now head coach of Bulgaria's Greco-Roman wrestling team.

Bulgaria's women wrestling coach Serafim Barzakov also expressed readiness to go on hunger strike to support Nazaryan, the federation added. Barzakov was a two-time World and four-time European freestyle champion

Last month, Valentin Yordanov, chief of Bulgaria's wrestling federation and seven-time world champion, returned his gold medal from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as protest against the IOC decision.

The Bulgarians have won 16 Olympic titles, making wrestling the most successful Olympic sport in the Balkan country.

The International Olympic Committee has decided to remove wrestling, one of the oldest Olympic sports, from the 2020 games. Instead, the IOC chose to keep the modern pentathlon.

Wrestling goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. There is no word yet on what will replace the sport

Bulgaria's Wrestling Coach Starts Hunger Strike to Protest IOC Decision