By Duncan Mackay

Armen Nazaryan head and shouldersMarch 3 - Protests against the decision to axe wrestling from the Olympics took a new twist when Armen Nazaryan, a two-time gold medallist, announced he was going on hunger strike.

Nazaryan, who won the gold medal in the 52 kilogram class at Atlanta 1996 competing for Armenia and the 58kg at Sydney four years later after switching to Bulgaria, claimed that he would continue the hunger strike unti at least the start of the European Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia, on March 22.

"I'm protesting against the recommendation to drop wrestling from the Olympics," the 38-year-old said, who is now a national coach in Bulgaria.

"Wrestling has always been part of the Olympic programme and it's not right to exclude it from the Games.

"I'm starting my hunger strike and from now on I will drink only syrup.

"I've won different medals throughout my wrestling career.

"I won't let such a thing happen.

"That would mean our achievements will lose their value."

The decision by the International Olympic Committee's ruling Executive Board to remove wrestling from the group of core Olympic sports after Rio 2016 has outraged the wrestling community throughout the world.

Armen Nazaryan wrestlingDouble Olympic gold medallist Armen Nazaryan will not eat again until later this month

Bulgaria's Valentin Yordanov and Russia's Sagid Murtazaliev have already returned their Olympic gold medals back to the IOC in protest.

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 on the porgramme in 2020.

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.

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