MOSCOW, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Russia's Sagid Murtazaliev has become the second wrestler in the last few days to return his Olympic gold medal in protest against the sport's possible exclusion from the Games.
"I must admit it was a tough decision," Murtazaliev, who won gold in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was quoted as saying by the local outlet R-Sport on Tuesday.
"But after thinking it over, I decided to follow the example of Valentin Yordanov," he said in a reference to the seven-times world champion from Bulgaria who last week sent his 1996 Olympic gold medal back to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Murtazaliev said he has also written a letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge, protesting against the IOC executive board's recommendation to drop the sport in 2020.
The decision has outraged the wrestling community throughout the world, with several countries, including the sport's superpowers Russia, Japan and the United States, lobbying the IOC to keep the ancient sport on the Olympic programme.
Part of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and all further editions, except the 1900 Paris Games, wrestling now joins seven other candidates battling for one spot in a revamped programme.
The IOC executive board will meet in St Petersburg in May to determine which of them will be put to the vote at the IOC session in Buenos Aires in September.
"I felt I had to do something to try to keep wrestling as part of the Olympics," Murtazaliev, 38, now a member of parliament in his native republic of Dagestan in the North Caucasus, said. (Reporting By Gennady Fyodorov; Editing by John Mehaffey)