Sat, Mar 30, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Sporting world gives Oscar Pistorius the cold shoulder

The Guardian, JOHANNESBURG

South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius appears at the Magistrates Court in Pretoria, South Africa, on Feb. 21.

Photo: AFP

The sporting world has given the cold shoulder to Oscar Pistorius after a court in South Africa allowed the Olympic and Paralympic star to return to international competition.

Organizers of major athletics meetings now face a dilemma over whether to invite the 26-year-old to race. Many privately admit that they are reluctant to welcome Pistorius, who is awaiting trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home last month.

British Athletics declined to comment on the issue, but sources close to the governing body say Pistorius is unlikely to receive an invitation to run at the London Anniversary Games, to be held in the Olympic Stadium on July 27, or at the Birmingham Grand Prix on June 30.

Pistorius was a headline act at two prominent Diamond League meetings in the US last year — New York and Eugene — but he is unlikely to be welcomed back to either this year. Organizers for the two events refused to comment publicly, but one source said: “My gut feeling is that it would be completely unrealistic.”

The official line from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport’s governing body, is that it will not dictate to meeting organizers which athletes they invite to their events. However, it is believed that any organizers who do invite Pistorius will risk incurring the wrath of the authorities, who fear an onslaught of negative publicity for the sport.

“All invitations are at the discretion of the meeting organisers, and not the IAAF,” an IAAF spokesperson said.

It is believed that the governing body is planning talks with federation members and key meeting organizers to dissuade them from extending an invitation to Pistorius. One source close to the IAAF said their biggest fear was a small meet wanting to make a name by bringing upon itself a media circus. Most of the meeting directors we contacted said they needed time to discuss the developments.

Pistorius’ agent, Peet van Zyl, said he believed that the athlete could rely on invitations to race from a number of supportive meeting directors.

“I am confident that competitions will want him back,” he said. “I have received e-mails from numerous meet directors who have been supportive of Oscar [during the trial] and said one day they would like to see him back on the track at their meets.”

Van Zyl said he last spoke to the athlete a week ago, when a return to competition was not discussed. He plans to sit down with Pistorius and his coach next week to plot the future.

“Oscar and Oscar alone will determine if and when he wants to train and wants to be running,” he said. “He has not been training for a substantial amount of time. He’s a world-class athlete and if he’s in the right condition, then and only then will he decide.”

Van Zyl described the prospect of Pistorius running in the world championships in Moscow in August as “highly unlikely.”

“We’re not going to force anything. At the end of the day it’s his choice. If he wants to run again, we’ll be there for him,” he said.

“It would be nice to see him get himself together and get back on the track to be successfully competitive,” said Adam Azzie, a friend of Pistorius since school.

Pistorius could face a life sentence if convicted of murder.

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