Pistorius was in court this morning hoping to hear that he will get bail. His coach was already planning the resumption of light training next week. This seemed to be premature and optimistic at best. Meanwhile interest could not be greater.
The answer re bail eventually arrived at about 1330 our time. Pistorius was bailed with conditions including surrender of passport and guns and payment of a surety. The Magistrate concluded that the State had not satisfied him that any objections to bail could be made out. The case remains nonetheless a Schedule 6 premeditated murder case. The Magistrate expressed serious reservations about the Pistorius account.
The decision and the whole process seems pretty incredible to an English Criminal lawyer. I cannot believe that Pistorius would have been bailed here. A young woman senselessly lost her life at his hands. He fired a weapon several times when it was impossible to argue that there was sensible justification. He was also in possession of an illegal weapon and would be facing a serious sentence here for that alone.
I doubt very much that Pistorius will be able to resume training. The psychological difficulties and the public scrutiny will make this immensely difficult. It is hard to imagine that the Paralympian can resume his career in any event. For me, its over. His moment is gone.
The world is coming to terms with the ever more sensational and horrifying details emerging from South Africa with regard to the killing of Reeva Steemkamp, seemingly at the hands of Oscar Pistorius, early Police reports leaked to and published by the media, and myself, asserted that illegal steroids had been recovered from the Paralympians home address where the killing took place.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) has not been slow to disclose evidence to the media and indeed seems to be conducting a mini trial in front of the world's press. Speculation was rife initially that Pistorius may have killed Miss Steenkamp accidentally. SAPS were very quick to refute that possibility. Pistorius had not even appeared in court at that stage. Police and consequent Press reports indicated that he had been drinking heavily, had rowed with his girlfriend in the hours before the shooting (possibly, according to South African press reports about texts to Miss Steenkamp from Francois Hougard, a Springbok rugby player and former boyfriend of the victim), had fired a number of shots through a locked bathroom door hitting his victim a number of times. The case then took an even more lurid turn when a bloodied cricket bat was allegedly recovered from the scene. It was suggested that Miss Steenkamp's skull had been damaged by something other than a bullet. Miss Steenkamp's family were told by the Police that Pistorius had smashed her skull with the bat prior to the shooting. They say that they witnessed horrific head injuries before her body was cremated. This will undoubtedly form a major plank of the prosecution case at trial. It was not revealed at the bail hearing. Whilst this assisted the athlete in getting bail, he was forced into making a sworn declaration which may come back to haunt him. The bloodied bat is likely to become as synonymous with the case as OJ Simpson's 'bloodied glove'. The defence tactic of attacking the investigating officer, Botha, was, in part, an early attempt to cast doubt upon the integrity of the crime scene, the very same ruse employed by OJ's lawyers in respect of avowedly racist cop, Mark Fuhrman.
It is hard to imagine that so much detail would be available so quickly in the UK and it certainly could not be published.
SAPS were keen to stress at an early stage that Pistorius would be undergoing psychiatric evaluation, but also that drug tests were being carried out.
The defence countered today at the bail hearing which is now adjourned into a 3rd day that the 'steroids' are in fact a herbal remedy delivered in syringes called Testo compositum (little known). The truth will undoubtedly be established on this point in due course, but for now the whole case seems to be about points scoring re bail (perhaps the only victory that Pistorius could hope for (not to go to a prison where his prostheses would be removed as potential weapons and he would be helplessly confined to a wheelchair). The defence also discredited claims that witnesses heard a lengthy shouting match. They were seemingly some distance away. The Investigating Officer Botha, seemed hesitant and ill prepared for interrogation in court. This is hardly surprising. The case is being conducted like a full scale trial before the evidence has been properly considered. In the UK I suggest that such a bail hearing would last about half an hour, be held in private and would almost certainly consider the current state of the prosecution case at its highest. Pistorius would not get bail here.
Breaking news this morning 21st February 2013 is that yesterday Botha was informed that SAPS are reinstating Attempted Murder charges against him in relation to an incident in 2011 when he and other officers fired at a taxi. Even less surprising that he performed so badly yesterday, but one can only wonder at a decision to place him in charge of such a high profile investigation when he is under such an enormous cloud himself. They certainly do things differently in South Africa.
The fact remains that Pistorius' story is incredibly weak and implausible on many levels. Putting so much of his case in the public domain at this stage in a sworn affidavit in an attempt to get bail is a high risk strategy. Robert Shapiro, the man who defended OJ Simpson in another notorius case involving a sporting superstar, declared that the defence tactic of declaring there hand in writing at this early stage was unprecedented in his experience and dangerous, because Pistorious would now be effectively held to that declaration. For instance claiming that he was not wearing his prostheses when he fired the shots (why did he ever need to?) can easily be disproved by firearms experts unless true. It was pitch black, he claimed, so he did not see his girlfriend was not in bed, but he managed to arm himself with a lethal weapon and discharge it several times without bothering to 'find out' who was the other side of a locked door. Presumably the lights worked in his luxury house. His defence counsel has a far bigger battle to fight in future than bail. The prosecution suggest flight risk. Certainly Pistorius might find that attractive given his trial prospects.
The World is in shock because Oscar Pistorius represented an almost entirely positive image for sport, for disabled persons and for South Africa. He has frequently been described as a national hero and beacon of hope. He first appeared at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens aged 17. His legend has grown ever since. His progression through Beijing to London 2012, his achievement in breaking down barriers by being the first disabled man to compete at the Olympics against able bodied athletes, has seen him rise to become a global icon. This has been coupled with an explosion in commercial opportunities for Pistorius himself and the accumulation of substantial wealth. He is said to have earnt £5m from commercial endorsements last year.
This week Nike has been forced to withdraw an ill fated and ill advised advertising campaign which featured the athlete as the 'bullet in the chamber'. Nike has suffered a series of high profile disasters amongst its stable of sporting superstars (Armstrong and Woods) and currently appears jinxed.
Pistorius has found himself under unbelievable pressure to continue to improve and to aspire to new heights. He did not in fact meet the qualifying standards for the able bodied 400m individual event, but the South African authorities and the IOC, perhaps mindful of his commercial and marketing value, value let him compete anyway (he reached the semi finals where he came 8th in his race). With the able bodied World Championships this year and the Comonwealth Games in 2014 Pistorius would be expected to push for qualification for the finals. Pistorius needed to keep the story moving forward.
Within South Africa he has been identifed as a rare unifying force, but there have reportedly been signs that the role model mask has been slipping in recent times. The World's first glimpse of a less heroic side to Oscar Pistorius came during the London 2012 Paralympics.
After Oscar Pistorius was, perhaps surprisingly, beaten in the T44 200m final by Alan Oliveira of Brazil, he complained bitterly about his opponent's blades, suggesting that Oliveira had crucially and unfairly increased his stride length. It is right to say that he had also raised the issue in advance of the race. Nonetheless this was a side to Pistorius at odds with his public image as the pin up boy of both Paralympism and the Olympics. There was also a certain irony about the South African complaining of unfairness given his own battle to be allowed to compete in able bodied events against protests of an unfair advantage from his blades (see Court of Arbitration for Sport here). A slightly touchy side to Pistorius was revealed during a BBC interview with Rob Bonnet in September 2011. When pressed about his desire to compete in able bodied events and about criticism from Dame Tanni Grey Thompson that he was somehow devaluing the Paralympic event, he terminated the interview abruptly listen here
Details are now emerging of some less than savoury moments in the Pistorius biography. Hints of previous domestic violence and Police reports of Pistorius being let off with a warning by SAPS after a female complained of assault and other slightly wild behaviour. None of that though comes close to explaining this tragic tale.
However the theory of 'steroid abuse' or 'roid rage' remains a possibility (although the hard evidence does not seem to exist contrary to what was originally suggested by SAPS). Did Pistorius succumb to the temptation of illegal doping through the use of steroids in order to maintain his stellar progression and iconic status in World Sport? He has never failed a drugs test, indeed he passed 2 tests during the Summer of 2012 but then that can be said of many of the previous fallen (Armstrong, Marion Jones et al). Drug testing rigour throughout the world is currently under severe scrutiny with widespread doubts about its ability to compete with the dopers through lack of resources.
There is plenty of evidence of the dangerous side effects of steroid abuse. Pistorius is said to have revealed a number of worrying traits in recent times including possessiveness in relation to Miss Steenkamp, notwithstanding their short relationship, but also an obsession with security issues, and more seriously with guns (he was in possession of an illegal weapon).
Steroid abusers are known to be subject to mood swings and to tend towards increased aggressiveness. The drugs can provoke overreactions and extreme aberrations of behaviour (even suicide). The abuse of steroids may also unmask an underlying psychiatric disorder.
There is no evidence yet that this can explain even to a degree the terrible events of last week, but if this proposition proves to be correct, then the world of sport and society as a whole will be forced to confront an even more urgent need to address drug abuse in sport.