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De Castella queries wisdom of AIS handing over purse strings

Marathon legend Robert de Castella has urged the Australian Institute of Sport to employ ''strict accountability and performance expectations'' if it hands national sporting organisations control of their elite funding.

The AIS is set for one of the biggest strategic shake-ups in its 31-year history with director Matt Favier and federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy to deliver a plan on Friday.

It is understood national sporting organisations will be given more control over their elite athletes and held accountable for performances.

The change follows disappointing results at London's Olympics where Australia was 10th on the medal tally and collected just seven gold.

De Castella was one of the first employees at the AIS when it was opened in 1981, and was director from 1990-95.

He said changes needed to be made. But he hopes the Australian Sports Commission is ''not washing their hands'' and putting all responsibility on individual sports.


''Even in the well organised sports there's a lack of appreciation of what elite and high performance sport entails,'' de Castella told The Canberra Times.

''I believe the AIS is an incubator of excellence which has access to the world's best scientists and medical staff with the best coaches tapping into everything.

''If handing responsibility to the individual sports is what they're doing, I'm not sure that's what I would do if I was in charge.

''At the end of the day it's government funding and the government needs to be accountable.

''For me, there needs to be strict accountability and performance expectations on everyone so that the Olympic performances improve.''

There is also speculation that with sporting programs spread nationally, the AIS Canberra campus could be further diluted.

The AIS was originally established as a central base for elite sport and at its peak was considered Australia's Olympic home.

However, the growth of star sporting academies and institutes has seen the Canberra campus's role diminish as a permanent home.

''[The AIS] role has obviously changed, states have a pretty sophisticated and comprehensive network,'' de Castella said.

''But I think there's still an important role for an institute of excellence … there needs to be somewhere for coaches, the scientists and medical staff where they are one step removed from the politics within national and state sporting organisations.

''London was, if not a disaster, certainly disappointing. Everyone wants to focus on the pointy end and no one wants to work on development. Everyone wants the accolades and to rub shoulders with world champions, but to get those guys you need to support them as juniors and developing athletes. That's the critical point.''

Most AIS athletes are unaware of how the major changes will affect them.

Three-time race walking Olympic medal-winner Jared Tallent has made Canberra his home and trained at the AIS for most of his career.

His coach is moving to Melbourne at the end of the year, but Tallent plans to remain in the capital with wife, Claire, as his mentor.

Tallent has an AIS scholarship until April 30 next year, but admitted the future was uncertain and is waiting for details to be released on Friday.

''We know they are going to change the way our sports are funded, but that's about all,'' Tallent said.

''From 2013 and beyond we guess things will change but we'll wait and see. I think the AIS will be here, but it may not look the way it does now.''