Sports Law Update - Should a Sporting Come Back be Allowed?

18 November 2014

The long-awaited outcome of the Oscar Pistorius trial has recently been announced with the accused being sentenced to five years in jail for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius was also given a three year suspended sentence for a firearms charge.

Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide when he alleged to have mistakenly shot Steenkamp three times through a toilet door, fearing that there was an intruder in his house on Valentines night in 2013.

The South African Oscar Pistorius was born with fibular hemimilia and at the age of 11 months, had his legs amputated between his knees and ankles. He grew up to become a world renowned sprinter known as the "Blade Runner" competing in single below the knee amputee events across the world and ultimately became a Paralympic champion. Following a long legal dispute over whether he could compete in able-bodied competitions, Pistorius became the first double amputee to win a medal at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics and the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic games in 2012. Thereafter, Pistorius set a number of new world records in the 2012 Summer Paralympics. He has also been presented with numerous awards and accolades in recognition of his achievements and contribution to sport.

The Valentine's Day incident and ensuing trial has sparked a lot of debate over whether Pistorius should be allowed to return to his athletics career after serving his sentence. Pistorius is set to miss out on the Rio 2016 Paralympics though there is a possibility that he will only have to serve 10 months in prison and the remaining time under house arrest. The International Paralympic Committee has said that it would not allow Pistorius to run at any of its events for five years even if he were released early. An IPC spokesman commented that, "The rules state that if someone is given a five-year sentence by a court, they must serve that sentence before returning to competition".  The IPC will only consider allowing him to compete if his sentence is appealed and formally reduced.

Whilst the 2013 shooting was completely unrelated to sport, with Pistorius having once been the poster boy for Paralympics and a role model to many, there are concerns over whether it would be damaging to the Paralympic movement to have him return whilst others are saying that the Paralympic movement doesn't revolve around just one person and that many other stars are now emerging who they can focus on.

Pistorius' career was responsible for his primary source of income but now, with having lost so many if not all of his endorsements and sponsorships, it begs the question of whether he could once again even compete at his former level. Questions have already been asked over whether house arrest terms would allow him to train. It remains to be seen whether Pistorius will even want to return to sport and once again be back in the public eye once his sentence has been served but it seems for now, that the door to a return to sport certainly hasn't been closed to him for good.

This is an issue which is also a current topic of debate involving the former Sheffield United footballer, Ched Evans who has recently been released early from a 5 year prison sentence imposed in 2012 having been found guilty of rape. Sheffield United are still deliberating over whether Evans will be allowed to play for them ever again. A petition to block Evans from a return to the Sheffield Club has reached over 150,000 followers. The debate over Evans' return is clouded by the fact that he still maintains that he is innocent.  Evans' case is due to be looked at by the Criminal Case Review Commission in the coming weeks.

Should Pistorius and Evans be prevented from returning to their former careers having served their time for their respective convictions? There are many instances in today's society where a criminal record would prevent someone from successfully gaining employment. Should sport be one of them?

Keep an eye on our website for more Sports Law related articles.

 

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