Former world champion marathon runner Robert de Castella has blasted Athletics Australia's move away from basing athletes at the Australian Institute of Sport and described its tiered-scholarship program as a ''cop out''.
Another former world champion, race walker Nathan Deakes, said the AIS was ''vital'' to his own development and he was concerned about the changes.
De Castella spent 17 years at the AIS in various roles - from sports scientist to athlete to director to board member - and said it played a crucial role in his 1983 world championship and his two Commonwealth Games gold medals.
He labelled AA's plans to provide most of its funding to successful athletes, such as Sally Pearson and Mitchell Watt, as a political ''cop out'' and was concerned about how it would develop future stars.
He said world champions came from ''incubation programs'' such as the way the AIS was set up in the 1980s and '90s.
Following a review of the unsuccessful London Olympic Games, the AIS will no longer run programs, with individual sports now responsible for governing themselves.
The AIS will now be used as a sports camp, with athletes visiting a couple of times a year.
''I think it's a bad move, personally … I don't think that's how you make world champions,'' de Castella told The Canberra Times.
''World champions come from a small group, like a little incubator, and that's what I think the institute was back through the '80s and '90s.''
He said the new system would make it harder to develop talent with the next generation of champions to come from the 16-20 age bracket.
Without having an athletics program based at the AIS, de Castella thought identifying talent would also be hard.
''That's where our future is, it's not in the kids who are already representing Australia and your Sally Pearsons, it's the young kids who no one knows about - and they're not getting any support,'' he said.
Deakes spent 15 years at the AIS as part of the race walking program that has been at the AIS for the past 33 years.
He announced his retirement from the sport following London, but only officially completed the paperwork on Tuesday.
After moving to the institute in 1997, Deakes went on to set a world record for the 50-kilometre walk in Geelong in 2006 and became world champion the following year before injury cruelled his career.
He was surprised with just how successful the AIS walking program had been, accounting for five of Australia's past 10 gold medals in athletics.
Deakes thought the changes would slow down the development of emerging talent and also lead to a lower retention rate in the sport.
''It wasn't just the structure [of the AIS], it was everything else I learnt as well,'' he said.
''I essentially learnt how to be an athlete.
''I learnt the professionalism behind it and all those other little things as well.
''As well as having all the facilities here and Canberra being a great place to condition athletes.''
AA head coach Eric Hollingsworth declined to comment, stating it wouldn't be appropriate until he'd spoken to athletes and coaches about how the new system would work.