The way elite sport is funded is “cut-throat” because “results are everything”, five-time Olympic rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave says.
But he does not believe it has created a “win-at-all-costs” mentality in British sport.
Bullying claims in several Olympic sports have led to questions over whether winning is put before welfare.
“If they don’t get the results they don’t get the funding,” Redgrave told BBC Radio 5 live.
“If they don’t get the funding you can’t prepare your team or individuals in the best possible way so it is a little bit cut-throat,” he told Sportsweek.
However, he added he did not believe UK Sport needed to change its funding methods and explained: “In elite sport, that’s the way it’s got to be.
“If you are pushing the boundaries back, trying to go faster, trying to get the edge on your opposition, that’s not just the coaches’ job, the athlete wants it as well. They are pushing the coach to get the best out of themselves and that’s a recipe for success.
“There are limited funds. We can’t fund every sport to the highest level, there has to be a cut off in some areas. I just hope we fund the athletes that can get us the glory and push us up the medal table because that’s where, as a competitor who spent all my life competing, I want us to be.
“I don’t think we have strayed into a mentality of ‘win at all costs’.”
A long-awaited report into claims of bullying within the Great Britain cycling team released on Wednesday raised questions over whether the “money for medals” ethos of UK Sport was to blame.
Following the publication of the report, UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl said a “root-and-branch review” of culture in high-performance programmes would be carried out.
“Any suggestion that UK Sport is about a winning-at-all-costs approach is frankly disturbing and it’s wrong. It never has been and it never will be,” she added.
BBC Sport has also revealed multiple complaints over a “toxic atmosphere” in Great Britain’s bobsleigh set-up, including a senior coach accused of racism.
That was added to on Sunday by allegations in the Observer newspaper that in 2013 athletes were told they could lose their chance to compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics if they spoke out publicly on issues such as bullying and racism.
Earlier this year British Rowing’s coaching culture was described as “hard and unrelenting” but cleared of bullying by an internal inquiry – though it was urged to take more care of athletes’ well-being.