Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said genuine medal prospects will not face any problem in getting financial support from the government but also emphasised on the need to use the taxpayers’ money judiciously. Rathore said athletes under the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme will face no hurdle in their preparation for next year’s Commonwealth and Asian Games and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“It is taxpayers’ money so the should be utilised in the right place. Concentration of effort is very important,” Rathore told reporters on the sidelines of the re-launch of Sportstar magazine here today. “There is a selection committee in every sport which is tasked to select the medal prospects. Those who are real medal prospects will get all the support. Funding won’t be a problem for them,” he added.
Rathore’s statement comes amid reports that the Sports Ministry has decided stop direct release of funding to the athletes, who are part of the TOPS programme. Presently, there 184 athletes enrolled in the scheme but the Sports Minister said the list can me modified. “Presently there are 180 odd athletes under TOPS and if they are close to medals they will get all funding. The list, however, will keep changing. It will be a case to case basis study,” Rathore said.
Beijing Olympics gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra recently resigned as government observer for shooting and chairman of the TOPS to avoid conflict of interest. Bindra’s resignation follows that of five-time boxing world champion MC Mary Kom and double Olympic-medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar as national observers of their sport because of the same reason.
But the Sports Minister said these elite athletes can be roped in by the Sports Ministry at any time in an advisory role. “The players themselves decided along with the Sports Ministry to avoid conflict of interest. That doesn’t mean they have been excluded from the advisory board. They can be brought back any time when the Ministry feels necessary,” Rathore said.