EXCLUSIVE: No passports for plastic Brits: Ukraine-born wrestlers turned down
Last updated at 10:51 PM on 2nd March 2012
Two 'Plastic Brits' have lost their controversial attempt to represent the Great Britain wrestling team at this summer's Olympics.
Sportsmail can reveal that Ukraine-born Yana Stadnik and Olga Butkevych will not be granted UK passports in time because they do not fulfil the Government's criteria.
Problems with their application came to light after British Wrestling filed the pair's documentation to the Home Office this week.
PLastic Brit: Olga Butkevych at the wrestling test event at ExCel last December
Sources say that although Stadnik and Butkevych have lived in the country for five years as required, they will not be granted 'indefinite leave to remain' – a condition of citizenship that demands 'sufficient knowledge of the English language and life in the United Kingdom' – for another year.
With this snag, it is extremely unlikely Home Secretary Theresa May will intervene to expedite their applications before the Olympics start on July 27.
'This marks the end of the road for these two individuals,' said a source close to the process.
The news will be seen as a victory for those who believe Britain should not chase medals by importing athletes with only a technical tie to the country.
It leaves British Wrestling, who appear to have been poorly advised by their lawyers, without the only two females they had planned to name in their Olympic team.
Flag of convenience Yana Stadnik (right) was born in the Ukraine
Three of their five male wrestlers are also non-British born – two from Ukraine and one from Bulgaria – but they have been granted citizenship.
Stadnik, 25, is a European silver medallist. She married Leon Rattigan, a heavyweight British-born wrestler, in 2010. The wedding was not a public occasion, but witnessed by Malcolm Morley, chairman of British Wrestling, and Yvonne Ball, the association's administrator.
It is believed five Ukrainian wrestlers have married British wrestlers in recent years. However, British Wrestling have denied the marriages are a sham.
Stadnik claimed last year in broken English: 'I have fallen in love four years ago with Leon. Most of the time we spend training together but the small spare time we have together we like going to the park. We have also been to Blackpool, Stonehenge and Liverpool.'
Chief executive Colin Nicholson added: 'These athletes have been in the country for a long period and have contributed to the Great Britain team in an immeasurable way.
Wrestling lift: Stadnik on the day she was married to Leon Rattigan
'They have done a lot to motivate and inspire British youngsters.'
Not everyone feels the same, one example being Chloe Spiteri, who was born in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium but denied selection. She has called the selection policy 'unfair'.
Nicholson would not say whether the governing body would now look to pick British-born wrestlers. He also declined to confirm whether Butkevych, a 26-year-old European bronze medallist, had married a British squad member.
The manner of the Eastern Europeans' arrival in Britain is also subject to controversy. Several Ukranians and Bulgarians were brought over by Nicolai Kornyeyev, the Ukrainian who is GB's head coach, on working visas supposedly to act as sparring partners for British wrestlers at their training base in Salford.
Passport granted: Charlotte Bobcats' Byron Mullens goes up for a slam dunk
It gave the new arrivals an Olympic chance that may not have materialised in their homelands, where wrestling is a stronger sport. Since then they have benefitted from 3.5million of UK Sport funding.
The British Olympic Association appear unlikely to intervene on behalf of Stadnik and Butkevych by making a special plea to the Home Office.
The Plastic Brits issue continues to stalk the British team across a number of sports. The point was reinforced when basketball centre Byron Mullens confirmed his availability to play for Great Britain after receiving his passport this week.
The 23-year-old Charlotte Bobcats star was born in Columbus, Ohio, but his mother is from Middlesex, making him eligible.
'Yessir,' he said on Twitter, with an accompanying picture of his new passport. 'I will be in London this summer!'
Mullens' availability could give Britain three NBA players in their 12-man squad, along with Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, who has continued to perform well for the Chicago Bulls despite playing with an injured left wrist.