On Valentines morn, the world’s media awoke to news that the prolific medal-winning Paralympic athlete, Oscar Pistorius, had been arrested by South African police and charged with shooting his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In the ensuing court discussions, Pistorius’ actions and attitudes have been deeply scrutinised as defence and prosecution go hammer and tong to undermine each other. Yet, whether Pistorius killed his girlfriend deliberately or accidentally is irrelevant. The whole trial represents how focus and determination in sport leads to an ”win at all costs” attitude which dissolves athlete of any responsibility.
When Dwain Chambers took his place in the starting blocks of lane five of the second heat of Olympic 100m semi-final this summer, he was already a winner. Months previously he remained banned for life by the British Olympics Association, punished for failing an out of competition drugs test, but like British cyclist David Millar his ban was declared unlawful and he was granted permission to compete in London. The difference between the two lies in their reaction. Chambers fought relentlessly to challenge his ban, embroiling himself in multiple legal battles, trying new sport sand raising his own profile, all in the belief that it was his right to repeat; that he had nothing to confess and make right. The age-old excuse in sport comes to mind: ”It’s not cheating if everyone is doing it”.
Meanwhile, David Millar quietly made adjustments to his bike on the mall before embarking on the 250km road race around the Surrey countryside. If Bradley Wiggins is ”The Gentleman” of cycling, Millar’s anti-doping stance is even more crucial. Known as ”The Dandy”, he rose to public affection, won stages of the Tours de France and of Spain, wore the Yellow jersey and the coveted rainbow stripes as winner of the world time trial championships. He got caught. Millar has confessed, rebuilt his career, and become one of sport’s most important ambassadors. He has put his money where his mouth is, sat on the World Anti Doping Agency board and invested in the Slipstream project to prevent young athletes following his path.
This is the attitude that the Pistorius case, sporting culture, and society on the whole desperately needs. Like Chambers, Oscar Pistorius also faced a long hard battle to make it to the London Olympics. But both seemingly forgot that competition is not a right but the fruits of hard work and wider attention. While his bail hearing has evolved into drama; a question of did he or didn’t he and whether Pistorius has a dark side hidden beneath his inspirational exterior. Does Oscar have a history of domestic abuse? Are their more sinister reasons behind his gun-collecting? And, how truthful is he actually being?
Oscar Pistorius has been granted bail on condition that he hands over his passport, reports to his local police station two days a week and pays one million rand to the authorities. Though tearful and distressed on many an occasion during the trial, he appeared insincere at certain points, regretting more the damage to his career and profile than the death of a loved one by his own hand. Athletes selfishly focus on their own goals, with little regard to those around them and their methods of achieving them. They cheat and show no remorse for the consequences of their actions. Only by unravelling hidden networks of cheating can sport as a whole combat this attitude. Pistorius will eventually continue his life and career undeterred. His girlfriend and her family won’t.