Cyclist Lewis Oliva, who spent seven years with British Cycling, says Olympic medals are proof its “brutal” training programme is justified.
Oliva, 24, now with Welsh Cycling, said medals are “the bottom line” and any athlete unhappy in the British set-up should leave.
British Cycling recently admitted it had not paid “sufficient care and attention” to riders’ wellbeing.
“It’s a performance programme, not a day care centre,” Oliva said.
“You’re not taking people in off the streets and giving them something to do. It’s performance-based so it’s about medals and that’s the bottom line.”
Team GB won a total of 12 cycling medals at Rio 2016, including six golds.
An investigation into the culture at British Cycling was launched last year after ex-riders complained about their treatment.
In March, British Cycling apologised for any “failings” in its performance programme and promised to be more caring to riders following accusations of sexism and bullying.
Jonathan Browning, incoming chairman of British Cycling, apologised for “failings” in response to a leaked draft report of an investigation into the organisation’s culture.
Oliva left the Manchester-based British Cycling set-up last summer to begin a medicine degree at Cardiff University and train at the Wales National Velodrome in Newport.
“We had some pretty grim training camps in eastern Germany. Everyone’s suffering but nobody wants to give an inch. It works really well,” Oliva told BBC Wales Sport.
“I left not because of things being bad but because things ran their course. I thought I’d had the most out of the programme I was going to get.”
Despite leaving the programme, Oliva has been selected to compete for Great Britain at the Track World Championships in Hong Kong in April.
“You’ve got a lot of athletes from British Cycling who’ve been and are still in the top 10 British Olympians of all time and that should be the only proof you need,” Oliva added.
“If athletes really are not happy with how the programme is and if you’re not convinced with how things are being run, you’ve always got the opportunity to leave.”