A visa dispute is threatening to cause major disruption to this week’s Asian Cycling Championships, which begin on Thursday in New Delhi, India.
Athletes from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan are still waiting for visas with the UCI and the Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC) putting pressure on the Cycling Federation of India (CFI) to expedite a resolution. The hosts of the championships however, said in a press conference on Monday that they were powerless with politics getting in the way of sport.
"The Asian championship will be incomplete without Iran," admitted CFI President Parminder Singh Dhindsa. "The UCI and ACC feel that the credibility of the championship will be affected if Iran does not participate."
The Chinese contingent had also been facing difficulty entering India however were given visas.
CFI secretary general Onkar Singh explained that his organisation was lobbying the Indian government.
"We get a bad name for this," he said. "We had done all paperwork in time. We are trying to resolve the situation."
The Cycling Federation of Islamic Republic of Iran has taken the step of publishing letters from UCI President Pat McQuaid to Indian Minister of Home Affairs on February 28 urging the government to issue visas allowing Iranian athletes to travel to the championships.
"The Iranian riders are among the best and it will be a real pity to penalise these athletes because they can not obtain their visa in time," he wrote.
The Iranian team had planned a camp in India prior to competition and the delays have forced them to cancel travel arrangements resulting in a "big financial loss."
The Asian Cycling Championships will qualify athletes for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.