Paralympian Evan O'Hanlon has hit out at Athletics Australia's new funding program. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
PARALYMPIC running superstar Evan O'Hanlon claims Athletics Australia's new funding program is insulting to athletes and says he may be forced to retire at the peak of his powers.
The Canberra-based athlete has had his funding slashed at least 30 per cent despite being a part of the top tier of financial support as part of AA's National Athlete Support Structure, released last week.
The streamlined contract system has been put in place in the wake of the Australian Institute of Sport's Winning Edge program, to focus on achieving greater success on the international stage.
A year after winning gold at the London Paralympics, Evan O'Hanlon may be forced to retire. Photo: Getty Images
O'Hanlon is in the World Class 1 level, putting him on par with able-bodied athletes such as reigning Olympic 100 metre hurdles champion Sally Pearson and silver-medal winning walker Jared Tallent.
O'Hanlon said the funding he receives has been slashed at least 30 per cent, prompting him to consider his future in the sport.
''It's insulting not only to me, but to the rest of the athletes,'' O'Hanlon said.
''I don't how they expect us to perform at the same level, with the reduction for some cases meaning athletes are getting nothing.
''It doesn't make sense to me.''
O'Hanlon claimed three gold medals at this year's International Paralympic Committee's athletic world championships in Lyon.
He completed a clean sweep in winning the men's T38 100 metre, 200 metre and 400 metre events.
At just 25, O'Hanlon has the potential to add to the five gold medals he has already won at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games.
''I don't want anything to do with Athletics Australia at all,'' he said.
''They've lied to us in this whole process. It's disappointing to see athletes treated this way when the athlete is supposed to be the commodity in this organisation.''
AA high performance director Simon Nathan hoped O'Hanlon wouldn't be lost to the sport and said the amount of para-athletes on contract had increased from four to about 20 under the new system.
''He's highly decorated, he's at the peak of his powers and we don't want to lose him to the sport,'' Nathan said.
''There isn't a huge amount financially we can do about that.
''The reality is right from the start I wanted to equalise what the sport offers across the program.''
O'Hanlon's case is different to that of Canberra sprinter Melissa Breen.
Australia's fastest woman over 100 metres and 200 metres missed out on a contract altogether despite satisfying the required time for the Development category. AA didn't believe Breen was capable of reaching the final of the women's 100 metres in the next four years at either a world championships or an Olympic Games.
''To be assessed by my own federation in terms of being not a valuable asset and an investment for the future is heartbreaking for a 23-year-old to hear,'' Breen told ABC Radio on Saturday.
''I didn't expect it.
''I'm only 23, and I've made one Olympics, two world championships and if that isn't seen as a great achievement of my career so far, I don't know what else to do.
''It was gut-wrenching.''