PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius could compete at this year’s world championships after a South African judge eased his bail restrictions and ruled Thursday that the athlete, who faces a murder trial for the shooting death of his girlfriend, can travel overseas to run.
The international athletics body said that if Pistorius qualifies, it had no objections to him running — an event that could eclipse the stir last year when he became the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics. Pistorius’ agent told The Associated Press soon after the ruling that the world championships in Moscow in August could be a possibility if the runner wanted to return to the track on his carbon fiber blades.
Judge Bert Bam upheld the Olympic athlete’s appeal against some of his bail restrictions, but said the 26-year-old Pistorius must travel under certain conditions. The athlete could face a life sentence if found guilty of murder for the Valentine’s Day shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp.
His passport will be held by a court while he is in South Africa, and he can only leave the country if he provides an itinerary of his travel plans at least a week before he is due to leave. Pistorius must also hand his travel documents back to the court within 24 hours of returning home, Bam ruled.
“Based on this (the judge’s decision), and if he is up for it and qualifies, the world championships will definitely be on the radar,” Pistorius’ agent, Peet van Zyl, told the AP by telephone.
The judge’s decision was “fair,” Van Zyl said, but any return to track would be up to Pistorius, who hasn’t run competitively since September and hasn’t trained for two months. The worlds are in August, while Pistorius’ next court appearance is June 4.
“It’s his call. He’s the one under all the pressure for the court case and grieving for Reeva,” the agent said.
Although Pistorius’ lawyers said in the appeal hearing that he had no immediate plans to compete, he would likely need to return to track in the future to earn money, they said. Pistorius, widely known as the Blade Runner for his prosthetic legs, did not attend the court session.
“He has no desire to compete now but it might change and it will change,” defense lawyer Barry Roux told the judge in arguing for Pistorius’ travel restrictions to be eased. Roux said Pistorius would not try and evade trial if he is allowed to travel internationally, and would eventually need to run again “to earn an income.”
“He is not going to run away and hide. He is going nowhere,” Roux told the judge in the brown-walled courtroom in the high court, where television cameras and photographers were allowed in to record the proceedings. “Why stop him from traveling under controlled circumstances?” Roux added.
Pistorius says he killed Steenkamp accidentally when he fired shots through a door in his bathroom in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, fearing there was an intruder in his house. Prosecutors say he shot the model and reality TV star intentionally after they argued, and they have charged him with premeditated murder.
The IAAF, athletics’ ruling body, reiterated that it wouldn’t comment on the case involving Pistorius, but he would be allowed to run at the world championships if he met the sporting criteria.
“If he qualifies for (the) Moscow World Championships next August, then on the basis of (the) ‘innocent unless proved guilty’ principle he would be free to run,” IAAF spokesman Yannis Nikolaou said in a statement emailed to the AP.
The decision on whether Pistorius could run at other events would be at the “discretion of meeting organizers” and not the IAAF, Nikolaou said.
British Athletics chairman Ed Warner said it was too early to say if Pistorius would be invited to the London Anniversary Games in July at Olympic Stadium, a meet to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Olympics. Any decision would be taken “with great care,” Warner said.
Pistorius’ last competitive race was his victory in the 400 meters final at the London Paralympics in September last year. He hasn’t trained or “seen a track” for around nine weeks, agent Van Zyl said, but when he was ready they would consider both able-bodied and Paralympic events.