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October 5/12 10:51 am - Federal Government Announces Improvements to Athlete Assistance Program

Posted by Editoress on 10/5/12

The Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport), today announced improvements to the Athlete Assistance Program (AAP), the Government's sport funding program that assists athletes with living and educational expenses while they train and compete.

"Our Government recognizes that Canada's top athletes make great sacrifices to compete for our country, and for this reason, we are pleased to continue our record-level support for the Athlete Assistance Program," said Minister of State Gosal. "The improvements announced today will ensure that our athletes continue to reach the podium, while recognizing the need to adapt to the ever-changing high-performance landscape."

The number of carded athletes and overall program budget will remain consistent with previous years, while providing increased flexibility to Canada's national sport organizations to allow them to maximize the resources available on an annual basis.

Improvements include increased financial support for top performing athletes, athletes with child dependents, as well as additional support for Paralympic athletes with high support needs.

The improvements to the AAP policies and procedures were determined after a two-year consultation process between Sport Canada and the high-performance sport community. These consultations included input from individual athletes and coaches, as well as representatives of national sport organizations, multisport organizations, Canadian Sport Centres, AthletesCAN, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee Athlete Councils, and Own the Podium.

"The changes to the Athlete Assistance Program support Canada's objectives to be a world leader in high-performance sport at the Olympic and Paralympic Games," said Anne Merklinger, Chief Executive Officer, Own the Podium. "These positive and innovative changes to the program will ensure that Canada's top athletes are equipped with the means to continue their pursuit for the Olympic and Paralympic podium."

"The continued direct support to Canadian athletes through the Athletes Assistance Program is critical to an athlete's ability to represent Canada on the international stage," said Erik Petursson, President, AthletesCAN. "The increase in key areas of support sends a positive message about the Government of Canada's commitment to the AAP; we look forward to continuing our work together to ensure the best possible results for Canadian athletes."

The Government of Canada is the single largest contributor to sport in Canada and supports participation and excellence from playground to podium. Over 1900 athletes were approved for AAP funding in 2011-2012.

Improvement Highlights

Special Needs Policies - Excellence Allowance

An "Excellence" allowance for athletes performing in the top 3 (medal must be awarded) at World Championships or Olympic/Paralympic Games in events on the program of the upcoming Olympic/Paralympic Games. The duration of the allowance would be for 2 successive carding cycles. The amount will be $500/month (up to $6,000/year).  Income test: Maximum gross annual income of $60,000.

Special Needs Policies - Allowance for Child Dependents

An allowance provided to athletes performing in the top 3 (medal must be awarded) at World Championships or Olympic/Paralympic Games in events on the program of the upcoming Olympic/Paralympic Games. Provided to eligible athletes in Olympic/Paralympic sports who have "child dependents" to assist in supporting their families. The amount will be $500/month (up to $6,000/year).  Income test: Maximum gross annual income of $70,000.

Special Needs Policies - Paralympic Athletes with High Support Needs

Athletes would be eligible for $500/month (up to $6,000/year).
There would be an income test similar to that for child dependents.
Two groups of athletes with high support needs were identified:

1.  Athletes that require one-on-one support to train and compete. Helper is authorized on the field of play; and

2.  Athletes that require one-on-one personal care support to train and compete or to attend training and competition.

Athletes with "guides" who are already carded would not be eligible for this subsidy.

Other Administrative and Financial Changes

Revision to National Sport Organization Eligibility Requirements for AAP

Revise the national sport organization (NSO) eligibility criteria to restrict AAP funding to sport disciplines based on the Sport Funding and Accountability Framework (SFAF) Excellence assessment:

•  AAP eligibility to those Olympic/Paralympic/non-Olympic sports whose HP program are funded via SFAF;

•  Limit the amount of AAP support provided to Olympic/Paralympic/non-Olympic sports whose HP program are below an established minimum point threshold in the SFAF Excellence assessment; and

•  No new sport disciplines will be added to AAP eligibility in the middle of a "quota" cycle, except in the following circumstance: new Olympic and Paralympic sports targeted by Own The Podium for their national team program.

National Team Relocation Expenses
For athletes who move permanently to a NSO-designated national team training centre.  Maximum $500/move, maximum 2 moves.

Revisions of the Senior International (SR1/SR2) Carding Criteria
Revise criteria to top 8 and top _ of field at Olympic/Paralympic Games or World Championships. This includes the elimination of the requirement of 10 countries in Paralympic events.

Revisions of the Senior International (SR1/SR2) Carding Criteria
An NSO may adjust a criterion or include sport specific requirements to the SR1/SR2 criteria specific to their sport in order to strengthen the criteria.

Revisions of the Senior International (SR1/SR2) Carding Criteria
In individual sports with team-type or relay events, athletes who compete in the event will be awarded a Senior International Card (SR1 or SR2), depending on the result of the team/relay in the final.

Revision to Team Sport Policies - Professional Athletes
Athletes who are competing in the NBA, NHL, ML Baseball or 1st Division Soccer Leagues (men only) in Europe (as determined by Sport Canada) will not be eligible for AAP support.

Athletes who are competing in a professional league other than the NBA, NHL, ML Baseball or 1st Division Soccer Leagues in Europe may be considered for AAP support based on the degree of their participation in national team programs.

Provision of AAP Support for Athletes in Olympic/Paralympic NSOs that Do Not Meet AAP Eligibility Requirements (the NSO is not eligible for an AAP "quota" of cards)
The athlete must place in the top 16 and top half of the field (absolute) at World Championships or Olympic/Paralympic Games.

Changes to Tuition Policies - Tuition Changes for Post Retirement
Encourage retiring athletes to utilize deferred tuition available to them for National Coaching Certification Program courses and National Coaching Institute coaching courses and provide up to $5,000 special needs retirement.

Changes to Tuition / Deferred Tuition Allowance
Maximum lifetime tuition/deferred tuition of $25,000;
Maximum tuition and deferred tuition amount per year $5,000;
Number of years past last carding date to access deferred tuition 5 years;
Maximum amount allowed to defer tuition - $5,000 x 5 years for $25,000 minus any tuition already paid.

Changes to Tuition Policies - Administrative Changes
Direct payment for tuition or deferred tuition to an athlete will only be provided within a period of one year from the date of payment by the athlete or completion of the course (currently this is open ended).

Provide direct financial support for tuition fees only upon proof of completion of courses.  No tuition support for athletes attending school outside of Canada.

Anti-Doping Education
The Government of Canada is committed to worldwide efforts to eliminate doping in sport and provides financial contributions to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport in support of this objective. Included in the changes to the AAP will be a requirement for all carded athletes to complete an online anti-doping education module provided by the Centre. It is anticipated that the online anti-doping program will be available by the end of the year.

SOURCE: Canadian Heritage


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