The 'cycle of despair' began the day they won the prestigious cyclothon events.
Winners of the Pune and Mumbai Cyclothon events in February and March certainly would have felt a sense of pride holding blown-up dummy prize money cheques, but it's been six months and the Cycling Federation of India (CFI) is yet to give them the real ones.
Sport 18, a division of CNBC Network 18, had signed a three-year multi-crore sponsorship deal with the CFI last year, under which the podium finishers were to get Rs 1 lakh, Rs 75000 and Rs 50000 respectively. There were cash awards for the top-20 finishers as well.
But till date, the CFI has neither given the winners the cheques nor transferred money in their accounts. "It's a normal procedure that first we are handed the dummy cheques, after which the real cheques are given within a couple of weeks of the event. We don't know why the CFI is not giving our money," said a top-20 finisher in both the Pune and Mumbai Cyclothons. "They are probably earning interest on prize money," added another international cyclist.
Satish Menon of Sports 18 said, "As per the deal, the money for both the events has been given to the CFI."
Last month, the CFI had organised a Rs 3.5 lakh event in Raipur, Chhattisgarh and there too the winners are waiting for the real cheques, though the competition was not part of the CFI-Sports 18 sponsorship deal.
When contacted, the CFI secretary-general, Omkar Singh, said, "The money would be given to the players soon. We got the sponsorship money late, so we were not able to disburse the amount." On Sunday, the 3rd cyclothon of the year is scheduled in Chandigarh and, like previous occasions, the participants are wary of the dummy cheques.