Disgraced Pistorius ‘could run again long before end of five-year sentence’


newslatestDisgraced Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius could run again professionally long before the end of his five-year prison sentence, according to Britain’s best-known Paralympian.

This week, Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison, although he is unlikely to serve the full term, and could be released into house arrest after just 10 months in prison.

Pistorius had earlier been cleared of murder, but found guilty of culpable homicide for killing Reeva Steenkamp in his home in Pretoria, South Africa, on 14 February 2013.

He has always admitted shooting Steenkamp through the door of his bathroom, but claims he mistook her for an intruder.

Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, who herself won 11 Paralympic gold medals, said her thoughts this week had been with the Steenkamp family, who she hoped would now be able to “find some peace”.

She said she agreed with those who felt Reeva Steenkamp’s name had been missing from much of the commentary and media coverage of the trial.

She added: “I am not an expert on South African law so I am quite reluctant to comment on how long he got. It is what it is.”

But she said there would be people who would want to see Pistorius run again, and others “who will not want to see him anywhere near a track”, although there were “too many ifs and buts” to say yet whether she believed he should do so.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said this week that Pistorius would not be allowed to compete again until his full five-year sentence had been served in 2019, even if he was released early from prison.

Baroness Grey-Thompson said she believed the IPC was right to say that it viewed the sentence as five years and so would not allow Pistorius to compete again in its events until that time had been served.

She said that Pistorius was the “first global icon” of the Paralympic Games, but that the Paralympic movement was “bigger than one person”.

She said: “I think the Paralympics is in a really strong place. The events will move on, the sport will move on.

“Ultimately the IPC runs Paralympic athletics. It is for them to judge not just the mood of the world but to judge what is the right thing to do.”

But she said she agreed that Pistorius could – if he was released early from prison for good behaviour or served part of his sentence under house arrest, and other factors “line up” – compete internationally outside the control of the IPC far sooner than 2019, for example by seeking a place in an event run as part of the mainstream, invitation-only Diamond League world athletics circuit.

These meetings also include occasional exhibition races by disabled athletes, so Pistorius could compete against either disabled or non-disabled athletes.

Baroness Grey-Thompson said: “He could run at a mainstream [event]. It would be interesting. I have no idea what the reaction to it would be.

“An elite promoter might want him, [but]some athletes might not want to run against him.”

But she said that some athletes might be keen to compete against Pistorius because of the boost it would give their international profile.

And she said that the mainstream athletics world – event promoters, the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) – was probably “taking time to consider the implications” of the sentencing, just as the IPC was.

An IPC spokesman said: “With regards to him competing in IAAF Diamond League events, this would not be an IPC issue.

“The IAAF would have to decide whether they would allow him to compete or not so you are best speaking to them on this.”

When asked whether its rules would allow Pistorius to compete in a Diamond League or other IAAF meeting once he was released from prison, an IAAF spokesman refused to comment.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) has previously told DNS – after his conviction, but before he was sentenced – that Pistorius would be “free to compete for South Africa again, as long as his running doesn’t go against the ruling of the judge”, because there was “no regulation that says someone with a criminal record cannot compete”.

But this week, the same SASCOC spokeswoman said: “As has been SASCOC’s standpoint throughout the case, we will not be making any reference on anything related to Oscar Pistorius as the law has followed due process and run its course.”

The British Paralympic Association (BPA) said only that the sentencing was “a legal matter not in any way related to the BPA so we will not be commenting”, although its “thoughts remain with the family of Reeva Steenkamp”.

There was little or no support for the sentence in the UK this week, with the hashtags #nojustice and #ThingsLongerThanOscarsSentence both trending on Twitter.

There appear to have been no public comments from Paralympians in the UK, although some influential disabled figures did criticise the sentence.

Professor Peter Beresford (@beresfordpeter), chair of the national, user-led Shaping Our Lives network, said on Twitter: “Pistorius 10mnths expected to be served in prison. The same old message re the rights of women and devaluing them and their lives.”

The social affairs journalist and commentator Frances Ryan (@frances_ryan) was another critical voice, saying: “Pistorius can apply for release in 10 months. Book deal in two years, then? Crying on Oprah in three? Rehabilitation for the woman abuser.”

23 October 2014

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