Will Oscar Pistorius make an athletics comeback? And when could Paralympian return to track? Following gold medallist’s successful parole hearing after shooting Reeva Steenkamp dead ten years ago

Oscar Pistorius won his bid for parole on Friday ten years after he murdered girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria. 

The former Paralympian was sentenced to 13 years and five months imprisonment in 2017 after his second trial’s sentence of six years imprisonment was deemed to short by the Supreme Court of Appeal, but has now won a battle for parole after becoming eligible at the start of the year. 

Whilst his first hearing in March saw him denied freedom due to an error in appeals court, Friday’s hearing will allow Pistorius to walk free after he is assessed by psychologists and welfare officers on January 5 2024. 

Before killing Steenkamp, Pistorius was a decorated athlete with an astounding six gold Paralympics medals to his name – as well as being the tenth athlete in history to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. 

But with Pistorius’ release just over six months before next year’s Paris Games, could the sprinter make a shocking return to competition? Here, Mail Sport looks at the questions around the possibility of Pistorius’ involvement.  

Oscar Pistorius was released on parole 10 years after being convicted for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp (pictured in 2016)

The former sprinter's girlfriend was killed at his home in Pretoria on Valentine's Day in 2013

The former sprinter’s girlfriend was killed at his home in Pretoria on Valentine’s Day in 2013

Before his conviction, Pistorius was a record-breaking para athlete and had competed in both the Paralympic and Olympic Games in 2012

Before his conviction, Pistorius was a record-breaking para athlete and had competed in both the Paralympic and Olympic Games in 2012

What is the eligibility criteria for athletes competing at the 2024 Paralympic Games? 

In order to compete in the Paralympic Games, athletes must hold an active World Para Athletics Athlete Licence for the 2024 season. They must also be internationally classified before August 5 2024 in an eligible Sport Class with a Sport Class status that is either confirmed or pending review. 

Additionally, they must have reached the entry standard in a performance at a World Para Athletics recognised competition between October 2022 and August 2024. 

However, there is also the possibility of exemption from the third criterion if an athlete is accepted under the ‘Bipartite Commission Invitation’ method. This is offered with discretion to, among other circumstances, top athletes who may not have had the chance to formally qualify due to extraordinary circumstances. 

Whilst there’s little doubt that Pistorius has not had opportunities since 2022 to qualify, it remains to be seen whether the games would use discretionary measures to ensure that the convicted murderer can participate in Paris.  

How could Pistorius become eligible? 

Between January 5 and the start of the Paris Games, the major opportunity Pistorius could have to qualify for the competition would be at the World Para Athletics  Championships in Kobe, Japan. 

However, the former sprinter could find his chances stymied by the entry requirements for this competition too, with the championships in Japan having similar requirements around performances of entry standard between 2023 and 2024. 

Could Pistorius attend the World Para Athletics Championships? 

Pistorius is unlikely to be allowed a discretionary place competing at the World Para Athletics Championships due to the location of the event. 

Japan has some of the strictest rulings against travellers with criminal convictions entering the country, with entry barred to those who have committed a drug offence, or crucially to Pistorius’ case, who have been sentenced to prison time for more than one year. 

Article 5 Category 5.2 of Japan’s Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act more specifically reserves the right to refuse entry to the country to participants in international competitions who have been convicted for murder. 

Who has the final say on Pistorius’ involvement? 

Even if Pistorius meets the requirements set out by the organisers of the Paralympic Committee, they do not ultimately have the final say on whether the 37-year-old travels to the games. 

Instead, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee will decide on the team they are bringing to Paris. Whilst their decision will be driven by the desire to win as the optimum number of medals, picking Pistorius just six months after he was granted parole could prove a divisive one.  

The decision on Pistorius representing South Africa sits with the sport's national committee

The decision on Pistorius representing South Africa sits with the sport’s national committee

Can Pistorius leave South Africa? 

In terms of the final say on whether Pistorius can travel, that will fall with the courts and the conditions of his parole. 

As per spokesperson for the Department of Corrections Singabakho Nxumalo, he will not be allowed to leave Pretoria, the area where he will return to leave, without permission from the authority for five years. 

‘Parole does not mean the end of the sentence,’ Nxumalo said. ‘It is still part of the sentence. 

‘It only means the inmate will complete the sentence outside a correctional facility’. 

Pistorius has served just over half of his 2017 sentence, and will undergo anger management therapy and gender-based violence counselling as part of the terms of his release, as well as take part in community service. 

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