Alan Hubbard_22-11-11I once spent some time on the road with a group of professional wrestlers, back in the days when the grip and grapple game was big on the box.

It was great fun watching characters like Giant Haystacks. Big Daddy, Cry Baby Syd Cooper, Les Kellett and the daddy baddy of them all, Mick McManus – he of the Cherry Blossom coiffeur – throw each others' weight around.

All fixed of course. A case of "you-win in-Plymouth and I'll win in- Doncaster". But wonderful theatre, superbly choreographed. And quite often they did get hurt.

Now it seems the other form of wrestling, as run by Britain's amateur governing body, so scornful of the antics of the thespian grunt-and-groaners, is following suit by becoming equally contrived.

Not by fixing the matches of course – but fixing it so that there's a better chance of Olympic medals coming our way with an infusion of foreign muscles draped in the Union Jack. And the only ones getting hurt are those young British wrestlers whose own Olympic aspirations have been put in a strangle-hold..

Actually, there's no Olympic sport more boring to the spectator than wrestling, where the exponents of freestyle and Greco-Roman are some distance away from the grunt-and-groaners of WWE like The Rock and The Undertaker.

So British Wrestling has decided to spice things up on the mat by importing a fistful of more accomplished grapplers from eastern Europe and attempting to fast-track them for 2012.

Indeed, four of the seven-strong squad on the world class performance programme are from Ukraine, and one from Bulgaria, and it would appear some of the émigrés have become more love-locked than arm-locked, with a surprising number of marriages to British citizens.

All above board, insist wrestling bosses, denying this is a cynical exercise to win medals in an under-achieving sport. But the international governing body aren't happy. "It is totally stupid, not good for the country," says FILA president Raphael Martinetti (pictured right). "It leaves no legacy for the Games."Raphal Martinetti_fila_14-12-11

One hopes the British Olympic Association (BOA), whose life-ban stance on cheating by way of doping is to be admired, are similarly concerned. along with UK Sport, who will have given the wrestling body £3.5 million ($5.5 million/€4.2 million) in an eight-year period between 2005 and 2013, to spend on its "world class" athletes.

There are a number of unhappy British wrestlers and coaches who believe more of that cash should have been gone on developing home-grown talent.

The Sport and Olympics Minister, Hugh Robertson, clearly is uneasy. He tells me: "Broadly speaking, I think that all naturalised athletes should follow the normal citizenship requirements and I do not support 'fast tracking' people simply to win a medal. Therefore, in practical terms, I am entirely supportive of [Kevin] Pietersen, who came here through a family connection to become English and served all the necessary qualifying periods, but the wrestlers do not seem to be in the same category."

However so far he has not been asked to intervene either by the BOA or UK Sport, though it seems likely the Home Secretary, Theresa May, will now take a long, hard look at any applications for citizenship.

Olga ButkevycvhAmong these will be one from Olga Butkevych (pictured left), who won silver in the 55kg category at the recent Olympic test event. She is one of two in the GB squad with a realistic hope of reaching the 2012 podium. The other is another Ukrainian woman, Yana Stadnik, who, like her compatriot, came here is in 2007 ostensibly aa a "sparring parther"  for British wresters and is now, married to Briton, Leon Rattigan, a member of the five-strong men's elite squad. This also features another Brit, a Bulgarian and two Ukrainians, one of whom, Myroslav Dykan, has been here since 2003 and is married to an Englishwoman

It will be a tricky decision for Mrs May to make. While wrestling's authorities argue that medal success in London provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ignite interest in a minority sport, critics complain that the policy of buying in foreign talent has actually had a damaging, demoralising effect on Britain's home-grown athletes.

Currently all are based in the north-west of England, which has always been a hotbed of wrestling. It s there you go from The Rock to a hard place, the British Wrestling Academy in Salford, as spartan a sporting institution as you will find anywhere in the land which is under the command of  head coach Nikolei Kornieiev. From, guess where? Ukraine.

Inside, a homily on the wall reads 'Train Hard – Win Easy. It is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.'  Media types are treated with some suspicion because, as one official said, "you reporters usually only come to take the piss."

Wrestling, as a pursuit for the purists, never gets much of a press, and  British Wrestling, apart from understandably resenting any association with the showbiz boys of WWE, are peeved that when their sport does get into the papers, it is with accusations that these eastern European wrestlers are being imported to become 'Plastic Brits' and boost GB medal prospects for 2012.

Yet when I visited the Academy last year I was assured by wrestling's performance director Shaun Morley, a police inspector, that they were here simply as sparring partners. "There is no programme to naturalise them, and never will be," he said.

Obviously there has been a tactical submission. Here is what Shaun Morley's father Malcolm, the chairman of British Wrestling, now has to say: "People won't like this but I deal with reality. I am a great believer in competing at the Olympics but you have to be good enough. If you are not you don't deserve to be there.

"We don't want to be like Eddie the Eagle. He was a bloody embarrassment to everybody. I don't believe such people should be allowed on the Olympic stage."

Hold on, Mr Morley. Eddie Edwards got more publicity, goodwill and affection for Britain with one gutsy, intrepid leap by someone from a nation with no history of ski-jumping than British wrestlers have in the history of the Olympics.

There are plenty who would rather have a fistful of Eddies doing their best for Britain than a whole clutch of of hired emigres competing under a flag of convenience in the name of GB.

Andrew Strauss_Kevin_Pieterson

True, wrestling is not unique in being heavily flavoured by overseas talent. England had five players born outside the UK, including "South Africans" Pietersen and captain Andrew Strauss (pictured), in their last Test cricket squad.

England's rugby union side beaten by France in the World Cup included four foreign-born players and the British athletics squad at the last World Championships included two who had switched nationalities, with more lined up for 2012.

And other sports, from equestrian to handball, have a fair sprinkling of participants who were not necessarily made in Britain.

Fair enough. That's the name of the Games these days, but do we really want to experience the same 'own the podium' opprobrium as Canada in the Vancouver Winter Olympics?

My fear is that pushing too hard with this for "Plastic Brits" policy has arisen from, a win-at-all-costs mentality which is contrary to the Olympic spirit  and will not assist Britain's dwindling popularity in world sport.

Time to get a grip. And we could start with wrestlemania.

Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title from Atlanta to Zaire.