Exclusive: Cash-rich Olympians face more spot-checks on their finances

 

British Olympic stars who are boosting their bank balances by cashing in on their post-Games celebrity are facing increased spot-checks to ensure they pay back all of their tax-free Lottery funding.

The Government-backed agency UK Sport, who are distributing a record £347 million in Lottery and Exchequer handouts towards preparations for the next Olympics in Rio in 2016, now carry out random testing on recipient athletes where the target is dosh, not dope.

These will be stepped up in the light of the huge sums being earned by Olympians who are trading medals for money in TV reality shows, personal appearances, sponsorship and endorsements. These are at an all-time high because of the massive individual achievements during London 2012.

Athletes on UK Sport's World Class Performance Programme can receive annual Lottery funding, called Athletes' Personal Awards (APA), ranging from £10,871 to a maximum of £27,737, the actual figure being determined according to their ranking by the governing body of their sport. They are also allowed ancillary income, including state benefits, up to an overall figure of £63,163.

All those who receive Lottery funding are means-tested, and the amount is reduced by a pound for every pound they go over the £63,163 cap. But athletes who are means-tested down or out still receive free access to coaching, sports science, medical support and training facilities.

Most now reaping the rewards of Olympic glory have employed agents to seek out big-money deals on their behalf. The diver Tom Daley, currently featuring as a mentor in the critically savaged ITV reality show Splash!, is understood to be getting a six-figure sum, as was Louis Smith, who won Strictly Come Dancing, and fellow gymnast Beth Tweddle and gold-medal boxer Luke Campbell, now Dancing on Ice.

Heptathlete Jessica Ennis, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and boxer Nicola Adams have acquired substantial advertising deals, as have Paralympians Ellie Simmonds and David Weir. All, like Campbell's GB team-mates who have joined the World Boxing Series, with a $1m (£620,000) jackpot, are set to lose all Lottery funding.

According to Tim Hincks, president of the TV company Endemol which produces the programme Big Brother, the Olympics and Paralympics have created a new breed of marketable superstar. "There's all sorts of commercial avenues that have opened up for them, it's quite an unusual situation," he says. "If, like Tom Daley, you can hit the sweet spot of being well-known, extremely good at what you do and also have charisma, then there will be a lot of opportunities."

A case of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me In There! Almost better than winning the Lottery.

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