Where did it all go wrong?
The 'Lance Armstrong doping scandal' has barely made it out of the news that another incredibly shocking story has rocked the sporting world, yet again; Oscar Pistorius has just shot his girlfriend dead, not once but four times!
What could have propelled two incredibly successful, worldwide revered superstar athletes to fall from grace in such a horrific way?
Picture: Lance Armstrong - AP photo/Laurent Rebours
At the time when the Armstrong debacle first unraveled a few commentators had asked the question: was Armstrong a psychopath?
Psychologists were quick to reply that we first had to distinguish between showing psychopathic tendencies and being a full-on psychopath. As it turns out, showing psychopathic tendencies such as mental toughness, fearlessness and ruthlessness could work in your favour in a competitive environment. And it was even suggested that quite a few successful athletes would most probably show some of those attributes.
However, when does it turn from extreme focus to dangerous behaviour? Both Armstrong and Pistorius have shown a propensity for angry outbursts. Lance Armstrong famously (and allegedly) accosted one of his ex teammates in a bar before a court case promising to 'f***ing tear him apart'. Granted, Lance used a team of lawyers to execute his sentencing, but his intent was clear.
When the Olympiads first started, competitors had to hold a full time job as there was no money to be made back then. Nowadays this is a very different world, a world where sponsors are willing to spend Millions on the right 'cash horse' and the media glorifies the winning athletes as near Gods.
And this is the thing, in no other arena can you be sure that you are the very best human being on earth apart from sports, that is. One could argue that so and so is the best actor/director/businessman, but in reality there is no definite proof. In sports, however it is a fact: you are the fastest/strongest human being on the planet. And the world is watching.
It is near impossible for me to excuse Armstrong or Pistorius's behaviours, but a part of me wonders whether such public adoration could damage individuals with a propensity for psychological disorders such as blind anger.
'God-like belief in yourself?' Pistorius's tatoo (right) quotes the bible.
'Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.’
Picture: Reuters/ Mark Rossi
Before the 2012 Paralympics, the media had hyped up Oscar Pistorius's performance to the point that it was his and everyone's belief that there could be no other winner. That belief came crashing down when Pistorius lost the 200m gold to Alan Oliveira. Pistorius was furious. He famously blamed Oliveira's legs and that it had been an 'unfair game'. It was that outburst that first alerted me to Pistorius's volatile predisposition and it was that very outburst which came to mind when I first heard of his girlfriend's tragic death.
No one wants to believe that their sporting Gods are worse than perfect. No one believed Armstrong's teammates. They were publicly vilified, even declared 'unpatriotic' by the media for daring to raise doubts over his credibility.
In 2009 Pistorius was arrested and spent the night at a police station after a 19-year-old woman accused him of assault. No charges were brought due to lack of evidence, but clearly there had been a precedent.
It is sad to think that everyone was eager to dismiss his outbursts as merely the eccentric side of a passionate individual instead of someone in desperate need of professional help.
And there is also the celebrity side of those athletes. There were the interviews, the high-profile sponsorship, the fame. Everything they touched turned to gold and everyone associated with them was guaranteed to bask in that glory. Let's face it, who had heard of Reeva Steenkamp before she became involved with Pistorius? Prior to this, she had graced the cover of FHM once, but it was becoming Pistorius's other half which propelled her to stardom in her native South Africa. Now one could wonder at what cost?
A fame-hungry starlet and a superstar athlete with an inflated ego: recipe for murder?
Picture: Getty Images
It is now sadly too late for Pistorius and Steenkamp, but it is worth wondering where it all went wrong. As far as I am concerned, the jury is out as to whether Armstrong or Pistorius are truly remorseful, narcissist egoists or real psychopaths. Armstrong's apology seemed fake and worse, followed by a 'well, everyone was doing it' begged the question: 'did he truly meant it?'. And I couldn't help, but wonder whether Pistorius felt more sorry for himself than Steenkamp as he wept in court or maybe he truly did.
I guess we might never know. Perhaps the only lesson here is for us is to acknowledge that superstar athletes are not Gods but mere mortals.
Just like the rest of us.
Picture: BBC news