India’s national shooting team have been forced to spend the day at an airport after customs officials refused to allow them back into the country carrying guns and ammunition.
The embarrassing gaffe left top shooters, including Commonwealth Games gold medallist Gurpreet Singh, stranded for over 12 hours at Delhi’s international airport until their paperwork cleared, National Rifles Association of India spokesperson Rajeev Bhatia told AFP.
The shooters returning from competitions abroad were told the appropriate customs official required to clear their firearms was not available, despite the team insisting they had followed standard procedures.
They were finally allowed through after spending most of the day languishing at the airport, leaving them exhausted and athletes demanding an explanation.
“We had the necessary documents with us yet they failed to give us clearance. We had to wait for the customs commissioner for hours,” one of the shooters caught up in the delay told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“Look we lost a day’s training, with the World Cup in Munich starting on May 17. It is sad that these things happen to the country’s sportspersons.”
Olympic gold medal shooter Abhinav Bindra slammed India’s firearms association for leaving the team stranded at the airport.
“They are our countries ambassadors and should not be treated like this. Would this ever happen to our cricket team?” he posted on his Twitter account.
But the rifles association president Raninder Singh said they were not to blame for the unfortunate incident.
“No body is more perturbed when issues like the non clearance of our teams weapons by customs at IGI crops up than us at the NRAI… what to say except astounding sad and frustrating,” Singh wrote on Twitter, referring to Indira Gandhi International airport where the incident occurred.