Athletes Gone Criminal

Oscar Pistorius started out having one of the most inspiring stories in sport. He was born without fibula bones, which led to having both of his legs amputated when he was 11 months old. His parents then divorced when he was 6 years old, and his mother died when he was 15 years old. Now, none of this sounds like a good story, but it wasn’t until Oscar found a way to beat his personal hardships that the story turned good. With his legs being amputated, he was aided with ‘blade-like’ prosthetics. With the help of his prosthetics he began running and not long after he became a dominant sprinter, where he was named the “the fastest man on no legs” leading to the nickname ‘Blade Runner.’

After making a name for himself, he went on to compete in 3 Paralympic Games, and won 6 gold medals. In 2012 when he competed in the Summer Olympics against able bodied runners, he proved his ability to many. Though he was eliminated from the competition after he finished last in the 400m semi-final, he left London after making a big name for himself.

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Oscar Pistorius at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/GettyImages

On Valentine’s Day in 2013 everything was about to change. This amazing reputation Oscar had made for himself was about to go ‘down the drain.’ He shot his 29 year old girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, four times through the bathroom door, resulting in her death. Initially Oscar claimed it was accidental because he thought she was a burglar, but it wasn’t long into the investigation before detectives suspected a premeditated murder. The trial in 2014, convicted Pistorius of manslaughter, and sentenced him to 5 years in jail.

On November 24, 2017, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the old sentence and a new sentence of 13 years and 5 months had been assigned to the once named hero.

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Pistorius during the trial for his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp’s shooting death

An article by Clare Harvey compares how Pistorius’ disability was viewed as positive light before the incident. This is because despite his physical impairments, he found a way to overcome and adjust to his mobility issues. This same disability after the incident can be viewed completely different. After the shooting and death of his girlfriend, his disability is viewed more negatively. It is said that because of his disability he is vulnerable and therefore that is why he shot her. Oscar’s defence team used his disability as a reason for him to receive a lighter sentence, saying that Pistorius is “afflicted by too severe a disability to serve a jail sentence.”

So, do athletes receive special treatments in criminal cases? It makes people question whether his disability gets used as a double edge sword because this man who used to be known as a hero for overcoming his physical impairment is now using the same impairment to defend himself in a murder case. I am left asking whether, if he wasn’t a well known athlete, he still be receiving the same sentencing or would it be more harsh.

Featured image: source


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