Monday, July 26, 2004 - Information
COC Top 12 Criteria - Athletes CAN Position Paper


The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) is responsible for Canada’s participation in the Olympic Games. Athletes striving to represent Canada at Olympic Games must first meet qualifying performance standards set by their International Sport Federation (IF). Additionally, IOC member countries may set their own specific qualifying performance standards. In April 2002, the COC formally set the Olympic qualification standard to “ranked within the top 12 in the world”, on rationale that can be summarized as follows.

“Raising the bar” will motivate athletes to perform
The COC believes that tightening Games standards will provide athletes with added incentive to perform beyond their current level. The COC Athletes Council has indicated there is no demonstrated research to underpin this position.

Olympic excellence, not Olympic participation
Some in the Olympic community believe there are too many tourists at the Games, and that by raising the entry point, athletes will respond and the overall team size will remain the same. This has not been substantiated and presumes that athletes strive only to get to the Olympics and that Games experience has little value.

This decision is about excellence, not resources or dollars
COC leadership has indicated that the top 12 qualifying standard is unrelated to dollars or resources. On several occasions however, COC has indicated to the sport community that the top 12 standard could be revisited should the provinces come forward with added resources.

Top 12 criteria is a predictor of performance and is in line with the approach of other successful countries
The mercurial nature of sport makes prediction an inexact practice at best, as is attested by the success of unheralded Sydney 2000 gold medalist Simon Whitfield and the Olympic disappointment of world champion Jeremy Wotherspoon. COC has not demonstrated relevant research or information to support this position.

Multiple Games participation and performance improvement are not linked
Sport Canada research and common sense run contrary to this position. Team sport success requires that core groups of athletes be exposed to multiple “world class” competitive experience. The successes of multiple Games competitors Perdita Felicien, Catriona Lemay Doan and Beckie Scott in individual sports, highlight the importance of prior Games experience.


In April 2003, Canada was chosen to host the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver/Whistler. The COC subsequently reset the Olympic qualification standard for Winter Olympic Games only to the International Sport Federation (I.F.) qualification standards, beginning at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.


Reaction to the top 12 standard has been profoundly felt by athletes, particularly those in summer Olympic sports. In spite of significant opposition to the top 12 standard and in the face of outrage over the recently altered standard for Winter Sport, the formal stance of COC has remained unchanged, putting the reputation of COC as a values-based organization greatly at risk.

Athletes CAN has expressed its views on the top 12 standard and the inconsistency of the Winter Sport standard directly to COC leadership and to the COC Athletes Council. As the collective voice of Canadian athletes and a partner of the Canadian Olympic Committee, our concerns revolve around:

Values - The Olympic values of fairness, respect, excellence and human development espoused by COC are not fully reflected in this policy. The sacrifice and demands of being a world class athlete is challenging enough without the obstacle of inconsistent, negotiable Games qualification standards, imposed by their own country.

Process - Serious questions exist around the processes undertaken to adopt the top 12 criteria, as well as the basis for, and timing of, the decision to alter standards for Winter Sport. These process concerns reflect a departure from the Olympic values of fairness and respect.

Inconsistent Standards and Athlete Development - The athlete development argument for loosening Winter Games standards fully applies to summer sports and should be reflected in a consistent set of qualifying standards for both winter and summer Olympic Games.

Dreams - The COC top 12 policy sends the message that Olympic experience is not valued, that unexpected Olympic performances do not happen and that Olympic dreams are conditional only on medaling at these Games. Many Canadian sport icons would not agree. The effects on the morale of current athletes, and those dreaming of one day becoming one, are devastating and cause for concern.

Performance and Research - The top 12 policy appears to be without a solid research basis, leaving a credibility gap and impacting the opportunity and dreams of many deserving athletes. This experiment exacts a price of lost competitive opportunity, life changing Games experience and potential future Olympic medals for Canada.

Fairness and the Canadian way - The Olympic Games are about creating Canadian ambassadors and heroes, imparting Canadian values and winning. Canadians believe in fairness and hard work, and that our athletes should have a fair and honest chance to represent our country against the world’s best. At the end of the day, they have to be at the Games to win!


On behalf of Canadian athletes, we respectfully recommend the following for consideration by COC:

Winning is the ultimate goal of all athlete efforts. Competing and winning at the Olympic Games is the ultimate athletic challenge. We do ourselves all a disservice in not assisting and enabling our best athletes and sport ambassadors to, in numbers, reach out for the Olympic dream. Until Canadian athletes have the appropriate resources and support to truly pursue podium performances, restrictive Games qualification standards are not the pathway to performance excellence. Experience at Games seeds learning, breeds wisdom and produces better prepared athletes whose likelihood of later Olympic success cannot help but be enhanced. In restricting access to Olympic Games and to all multisport Games on the basis of homegrown qualification standards, we crush the ideals, efforts and Olympic dreams of both this generation of athletes and the next. And in the process, we tarnish the spirit of sport and the values of the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron de Coubertin, who honored the effort and the ideals of all Olympic sportsmen and sportswomen.

The Board of Athletes CAN

Source: Athletes CAN

Related Articles: Top 12 Selection Standards - Olympic Values Gone Astray?


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