TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
AND now … representing South Africa in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics … Oscar Pistorius! Don’t wince. Don’t be horrified. Don’t laugh. Theoretically, this could happen.
Pistorius, jailed for six years on Wednesday for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, could serve as little as half that sentence.
So he could be a free man three years from now, on July 6, 2020 – 18 days before the opening ceremony in Tokyo.
Given that Pistorius is going to have a lot of time on his hands in prison, using most of it to train doesn’t seem a reality stretch.
He will, however, be almost 34 by the time the 2020 Games start. So any return to action for him might have to be in a discipline less taxing than sprinting. But could it happen?
“I wouldn’t see why not,” Tubby Reddy, the chief executive of SA Sports Confederation and Olympic committee, said after Wednesday’s court proceedings.
“Even if he is paroled he would have served his time and paid his debt to society. He would be expected to take his place in society again.”
And it’s not as if Olympians haven’t been sentenced to serve time in the past. In fact, Pistorius is the 53rd.
A Belgian figure skater, Yvonne de Ligne, hired a hit man to kill her speed skater husband, Charles de Ligne, in 1944, eight years after they had both competed at the 1936 Winter Games.
As Charles was part of the Belgian underground fighting the Nazis, Yvonne tried to blame the crime on the Gestapo.
But she was found out and served six of her sentence of 15 years before being released on medical grounds and dying soon afterwards of tuberculosis.
An American pistol shooter at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, James Snook, was sent to the electric chair in 1930 for murdering his lover, Theora K Hix, by slitting the throat after she demanded that he leave his wife for her.
Janez Albreht, the Yugoslavian ice hockey team’s goaltender at the 1976 Winter Games, spent five years and 11 months inside for attempting to murder his wife.
Igor Paklin, a Soviet high jumper at the 1988 and 1992 Games, was convicted of manslaughter in 1995 for beating his business partner to death.
Patric Suter, a Swiss hammer thrower at the 2004 Games, was jailed for life for the 2009 murders of a married couple he had killed to try and alleviate financial problems caused by his drug addiction. Suter still holds the Swiss hammer throw record.
Six members of the ice hockey team that had represented Czechoslovakia at the 1948 Winter Games were imprisoned for being among the dozen players who were planning to defect at the 1950 World Championships.
Most famously of all, seven years after Cassius Clay won gold at the 1960 Games, the man by then called Muhammad Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, fined US$10 000 and banned from boxing for three years for refusing induction into the US army as a conscientious objector.
He avoided being put behind bars by continuing to appeal until his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971, but the ban took three of what should have been his best years.
Pistorius is a long way from all that. For one thing, he doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as people like Ali and the would-be Czech defectors.
For another, when he was sentenced to five years for manslaughter for Steenkamp’s killing in 2014 the International Paralympic Committee said he would be banned for the length of that sentence.
Now that the state has successfully appealed and secured a murder conviction the same rules will surely apply.
Or, if Reddy’s view prevails, will they?