PARALYMPIC icon Oscar Pistorius was last night beginning a five-year prison sentence for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but the double amputee could be back at home in just 10 months.
Judge Thokozile Masipa brought a 20-month legal saga to an end yesterday by rejecting the defence’s pleas to spare Pistorius jail, a move she said would have sent “the wrong message”.
But the South African could be let out in less than a year, according to his legal team. Prosecutors indicated they expected him to serve nearer to two years. He would then spend further time under house arrest.
Paralympic governing body the IPC said Pistorius would be banned from competing in its events for the full five years, regardless of when his incarceration ended.
World athletics chiefs the IAAF refused to comment, however, leaving open the faint possibility that he could compete at the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
The sentencing completes one of the most astonishing falls from grace in sporting history, little more than two years after Pistorius became the first amputee sprinter to run at an Olympics Games, at London 2012.
The 27-year-old was last month found guilty of culpable homicide for shooting dead model and law graduate Steenkamp at his Pretoria home in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year. He always denied murder, insisting that he believed the person hiding inside his bathroom, who he shot through its door, was an intruder.
Steenkamp’s parents were present yesterday as Judge Masipa told the court that she believed her sentencing to be “fair and just, both to society and the accused”.
She added: “A non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community. On the other hand, a long sentence would also not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy.”
Arnold Pistorius, the athlete’s uncle, indicated there would be no appeal. “We accept the judgement,” he said. “Oscar will embrace the opportunity to pay back to society.”
Pistorius, who won 400m gold at the last Paralympics but was beaten in the 200m and 100m, faces an uncertain future as a competitor. He will be just three months shy of his 34th birthday when the 2020 event begins in Tokyo.
IPC communications director Craig Spence said: “It’s purely his decision. At the moment we have lots of athletes training for the Rio 2016 Games and we want to make that the most successful ever.”
“Regardless of whether Oscar Pistorius comes back or not, the Paralympic movement goes from strength to strength. He did so much for the Paralympic movement, but London 2012 showed the world that the Paralympic movement wasn’t about one athlete.”
The IOC said: “This is a human tragedy for the family of Reeva Steenkamp and also for Oscar Pistorius. We hope very much that time will bring comfort to all those concerned but at this stage we have no further comment to make."