By David Owen

Britain's men placed ninth of 12 in the London 2012 basketball competition, while its women came 11th of 12 ©Getty ImagesMarch 6 - UK Sport changed explanatory wording accompanying its high-performance investment principles shortly before announcing the withdrawal of funding from seven Olympic and Paralympic sports, including basketball, water polo and goalball, insidethegames has learnt.

One of the changes inserted a specific reference to the "probability" of achieving Olympic or Paralympic medal targets

The insertion appears significant in that it could be interpreted as giving UK Sport scope to concentrate investment on medal-rich sports, something that might act to the detriment of team sports with just one medal per gender on offer.

UK Sport, however, says the phrase "offers no indication as to whether UK Sport would prioritise sports in the same priority banding on the sole basis of medal availability, and was not added for this purpose".

The additional wording, it says, "sought to highlight the importance to our investment of the sports being able to deliver against their agreed medal targets with a view to delivering medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and was added to give more clarity to sports on the implications, which we had been told would be welcomed".

The relevant parts of the new sentence - now included in the so-called "implications" of the fifth of 10 UK Sport investment principles - state that the elite funding body will "conduct annual reviews of all World Class ensure that the allocation of resources continues to reflect the optimum balance between current performance and future potential and the probability of achieving Olympic or Paralympic medal targets".

The UK Sport board approved this and other changes in December.

Announcement of the outcome of the first annual review of the Rio cycle, withdrawing funding from the seven sports in February, has ignited a passionate debate in sports circles.

This pits advocates of a system that has served Britain well for a decade against those arguing that the collateral damage from striving to hit an exceptionally stiff Rio medals target for sports unlikely to reach the podium is unacceptable, and that in any case the country's interests are not best served by simply amassing the biggest conceivable haul of medals.

The thirst for medals seems to have seeped into the consciousness at UK Sport ©Getty ImagesThe thirst for medals seems to have seeped into the consciousness at UK Sport ©Getty Images

The aim for Rio 2016 is for Britain - which already exceeded expectations in its home Olympics by securing 65 medals and finishing third in the London 2012 medals table - to become the first nation in recent history to be more successful in both Olympic and Paralympic Games post hosting.

UK Sport has some £350 million ($585 million/€422 million) of National Lottery and Exchequer funds at its disposal to invest in Britain's Olympic and Paralympic teams over the four-year build-up to the Rio Games.

Under the body's "No Compromise" ethos, the more successful sports are granted essentially all the funding they can make a robust case for, while those whose chances of winning a medal are more remote risk being left with nothing once all available funds are allotted.

Rowing, a sport which provided 28 of Britain's 114 London 2012 Olympic medallists, is currently earmarked to get £32.6 million ($54.5 million/€39.3 million) of the Rio cycle funding; cycling is the next highest recipient with £30.6 million ($51.1 million/€36.9 million), followed by athletics with £26.8 million ($44.8 million/€32.3 million).

As Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, told a House of Lords Select Committee on Olympic and Paralympic legacy: "We will do everything we can to support [sports] to succeed, but we do not want to give them the excuse that we did not give them enough money to be able to do that."

The Committee's report, published in November, called for UK Sport to adopt "a more flexible approach", arguing that the "heavy focus on volume of medals" had "an inherent bias against team sports".

"This no-compromise approach to Rio 2016 will probably get us fourth in the medals table," Andy Reed, chairman of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, told the Committee. "But at what cost?"

Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, is said in the report to have defended the target of increasing the medal haul as a positive aspiration, whether or not it was realistic.

Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has defended the aim of increasing Great Britain's medal haul at Rio 2016 ©AFP/Getty ImagesMaria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has defended the aim of increasing Great Britain's medal haul at Rio 2016 ©AFP/Getty Images

The way no-compromise works, an identified medal prospect in a particular sport can be used to justify funding for a larger number of athletes.

A targeted boxing medal, for example, may trigger investment in as many as nine athletes; a diving pair in as many as 12.

Athletes are divided into two categories: podium level and podium potential.

A podium level Olympic athlete attracts investment of £60,744 ($101,643/€73,419); a podium potential athlete £39,207 ($65,577/€47,368).

These should be interpreted as investments in the athlete's sport rather than salaries.

One of the problems faced by team sports under the no-compromise system is that they cannot benefit from this full multiplier effect just by getting one individual to podium level: the best basketball player in the world might be a British athlete, but, there being no individual Olympic basketball competition, it is hard to see how she can be considered podium level unless the whole team is.

Of the 19 Olympic sports still earmarked to receive Rio cycle performance funding, only one - hockey - is a pure team sport; while most rowing events are contested by crews of more than one athlete, the Olympic rowing programme consists currently of 14 events, as against just two for pure team sports.

The February decisions to withdraw funding are subject to appeal later this month, with a number of the affected sports announcing their intention to do so.

Dave Andrews, chairman of the British Water Polo League, has, in the meantime, described the decision to remove all funding from the Great Britain women's water polo team as "a disaster" and urged UK Sport to reconsider.

"Without a fully funded national team, the sport will lose its role models," he said.

The other sports to have had their entire funding withdrawn by UK Sport are synchronised swimming, weightlifting, wheelchair fencing and five-a-side football.