In an embarrassing incident at the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi, ten shooters who were returning from an international competition, including Olympians Gurpreet Singh and Kynan Chenai, were detained by the customs department for over 12 hours.
The guns carried by the shooters were not cleared by the officials as they returned from the Czech Republic after competing in the Plzen Shooting Grand Prix. The same officials had themselves issued stamped letters which assigned serial numbers to the guns but refused to clear the same after the athletes returned.
The situation began at 4 am after the athletes got down at the terminal following an exhausting 20-hour flight. Sleep-deprived and hungry, many of them also had to miss their subsequent connecting flights as they could not leave without their shooting equipment.
With the World Cup also scheduled to take place in the next ten days, this will surely hamper the shooters’ preparation for the event. According to a shooter, an official also used foul language while talking to them and even went on to say, ‘You won’t die if you don’t eat.’
Abhinav Bindra, who won the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, has launched a scathing attack on Twitter, where he expressed his disappointment and questioned whether the same would happen with the Indian cricket team.
Saddened to hear that the National Shooting Team is detained at The IGI Airport with the customs refusing to clear their guns. 1/3— Abhinav Bindra (@Abhinav_Bindra) May 9, 2017
They are our countries ambassadors and should not be treated like this. Would this ever happen to our cricket team ? 2/3— Abhinav Bindra (@Abhinav_Bindra) May 9, 2017
He also questioned the role played by the national federation and why they did not help the shooters at the airport.
The veteran also revealed that the official team manager of the shotgun team was not there at the time of the incident as he left early in the morning without ensuring that the shooters had received all their due clearances.
The official team manager of the shotgun team left this morning leaving the athletes to fend for them selves.— Abhinav Bindra (@Abhinav_Bindra) May 9, 2017
Another ace shooter, Anjali Bhagwat, also tweeted her support, calling the situation a ‘mental torture’.
Is this the way to treat our Olympians? This is mental torture before major tournament. I know how bad it feels as this has happened before.— Anjali Bhagwat (@AnjaliOlympian) May 9, 2017
Heena Sidhu, who participated in the Rio Olympics, expressed her anguish as well, saying that this is the price the athletes pay for always following the rules.
Shooters held up at IGI airport for no valid reason or any fault of theirs. Dats d price v pay for always following d rules. been 10 hrs now— Heena SIDHU (@HeenaSidhu10) May 9, 2017
A source close to NRAI told Sportskeeda, “There is no question of not having a manager and Abhinav Bindra’s claims are wrong with that exactly. Amar Jung travelled with the team back to India but there was a change in SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) last week after the Meerut case.”
In Meerut last week, the house of a retired army officer, whose son Prashant Bishnoi is a national level shooter, was raided by government officials, where over 40 semi-automatic pistols and 50,000 cartridges were unearthed.
He added, “The NRAI wasn’t aware of this (incident) since it has just happened. In the meeting inside customs, only the shooter owning the guns are allowed. Hence, NRAI officials can't even enter. The information received by Abhinav Bindra is relatively inaccurate."Published 09 May 2017, 17:28 IST