PSC putting athletes under microscope

PSC putting athletes under microscope
By: Joey Villar(Philstar)

MANILA, Philippines - The Filipino athletes who were placed under the priority list by the Philippine Sports Commission will first have to undergo a thorough medical checkup before they start receiving the full benefits from the government sports agency.

“We are now in the stage of requiring these athletes to undergo medicals before we make them sign anything. We need to find out if they are physically fit to be included in the program,” said PSC chairman Richie Garcia.

The PSC has chosen close to 150 athletes, all medalists in the 2011 SEA Games, representing 10 sports, and once the prioritization program takes off most of them will be receiving monthly allowances of up to P40,000.

But Garcia said the PSC wants to make sure they are spending the money on athletes who are in the pink of health.

“We’ve experienced it before that some athletes are being funded for training and when it’s time for the competition, they are not really fit. Some even have problems with their sugar count or hypertension. This time they need a clean bill of health from our doctors,” he added.

While the medicals are being done, and it may take some time, the PSC will continue to confer with the Philippine Olympic Committee because the prioritization plan has been met with a lot of criticism from some groups.

There are athletes who are contesting their non-inclusion in the list, most of them belonging to sports that were not played in the last SEA Games. There are team sports as well that were not included, including baseball.

The Philippine baseball team won the gold in the last SEA Games, but the PSC has decided not to include team sports in the priority list. Garcia said it takes so much to fund huge teams with no guarantee that they will still be intact after a couple of years.

“We don’t want to train and fund athletes who may no longer be around for the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar or for the 2014 Asian Games,” said Garcia, who hinted that team sports is better off with private sponsors.

The prioritization program, a suggestion that came from President Aquino himself, will leave more than 600 athletes from the national pool with zero financial support from the PSC once the program starts.

“There seems to be a lot of negative reaction from the athletes. That’s why we need the POC’s full support here. The PSC and the POC must be on the same page here. We don’t like to dislocate all these athletes because we recognize their past sacrifices,” said Garcia.

“And suddenly they will say na pinabayaan na namin sila,” added the PSC chairman, who is open to the possibility of including five to seven more sports, and it means more athletes, to the prioritization program depending on the available funds.