MOSCOW -Russian freestyle wrestling Olympic champion Sagid Murtazaliev announced Tuesday he was giving back his gold medal in protest at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board guidelines to exclude wrestling from the Olympic programme.

"The decision to return my Olympic medal was very hard for me," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted 2000 Sydney Games Olympic champion Murtazaliev as telling IOC president Jacques Rogge in a letter.

"But after some deep thinking I decided to follow the steps of Bulgarian wrestling federation president Valentin Iordanov. "I made this move in protest against the IOC executive committee guidelines to exclude wrestling from the Games' programme."

The IOC executive panel agreed their recommendation to exclude wrestling from the 2020 Games programme at its meeting on February 11.

 Earlier this month 1996 Atlanta Games Olympic champion Iordanov announced his decision to return his gold medal in protest against the decision.