KUALA LUMPUR: Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu has stressed that athletes dropped from the national training programmes still have the opportunity to represent the country in international tournaments.

He said their omission did not mean they are barred from undergoing training at National Sports Council (NSC) venues and facilities nationwide to raise their performance.

“It’s just that we have not placed them under the Podium Programme, which is like an academy under one roof. This is what everyone must understand,” he said in the TV1 programme ‘Inklusif’ last night.

He also refuted claims that the Podium Programme under the NSC had been halted.

He said the Finance Ministry was of the view that the country’s expenditure ought to be prioritised towards the post-Covid-19 recovery process, which the Youth and Sports Ministry concurred.

“Although from about RM40 million that was allocated last year to zero, we at the ministry have found a way and we have managed to raise RM17 million to continue with the Podium Programme for our high-performance athletes,” he said.

The NSC had previously dropped 144 national athletes and retained only 293 athletes (248 able-bodied and 45 para athletes) for this year, as well as reduced their training allowances. — Bernama