02/20/2013 03:05 EST | Updated 04/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Bulgarian wrestler Yordanov to return Olympic gold medal to protest IOC

SOFIA, Bulgaria - Top Bulgarian wrestler Valentin Yordanov has said he will return his Olympic gold medal to protest the IOC decision to drop wrestling from the Olympic program.

Yordanov, 53, announced his decision Wednesday to return his gold medal in his 52-kilogram freestyle category from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The seven-time world champion says the combined efforts of all national federations would help keep wrestling's deserved place in the Olympic Games.

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