PLAY THINGS: Bad Boys

Murder most foul: what happens when athletes pick up guns
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First Published: Mon, Feb 18 2013. 07 03 PM IST
File photo of Oscar Pistorius after winning gold in the men’s 400m - T44 final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in east London on 8 September 2012. Photo: Ian Kington/AFP
File photo of Oscar Pistorius after winning gold in the men’s 400m - T44 final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in east London on 8 September 2012. Photo: Ian Kington/AFP
Updated: Tue, Feb 19 2013. 03 14 PM IST
Oscar Pistorius.
Miracle man, bionic man, blade runner.
He’s got fibreglass blades for legs, and he runs in the Olympics.
Able-bodies sprinters complain that his artificial legs give him an advantage—imagine.
He was, till last week, more than an icon. He was that rare athlete whose gifts surpassed the boundaries of his sport. He had stepped, with those shiny blades, far ahead of the running track. He was expanding the definition of what it meant to be human.
Have you seen Pistorius run?
Of course it’s all come crashing down now.
Oscar Pistorius. Charged with murder, loved guns, reckless driver, bad temper.
He claims he shot his gilfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in his home in Johannesburg on 14th February because he thought she was an intruder. Police don’t buy it. Steenkamp was shot four times—in the head, arm, hand, and hip. One bullet was fired in the Paralympic star’s bedroom, the other three in the bathroom. A bloody bat has been found in the house—Steenkamp’s autopsy revealed a fractured skull as well. Nike hurriedly pulled an ad featuring Pistorius and the catchline “I am the bullet in the chamber”. The case will make headlines for weeks to come.
It’s not rare for sportspeople to be involved in criminal activities, but murder is unusual. Here are some of those cases when an athlete picked up a gun.
Paan Singh Tomar
The excellent 2012 film on the national record-setting athlete-turned dacoit turned the focus back on an almost forgotten but remarkable story. ‘Dasyuraj Paan Singh Tomar, Chambal ka Sher’ (the king of dacoits, the tiger of Chambal)—that’s what he liked calling himself—went from being a farmer to a soldier, a soldier to an athlete who ran in the 1958 Tokyo Asian Games, and from an athlete to a feared leader of a criminal gang. He had multiple charges of murder against him when he was shot down by police in 1981, after a ten-year reign in Chambal. After the epynomous film, there has been widespread sympathy for the circumstances that led him to pick up a gun—crimes against him and his family, including forced eviction from his land; government and police apathy when he tried to right the wrong; poverty; and the hopelessness of trying to forge a sporting career in India. All too easy to sympathise with.
Leslie George Hylton
The Jamaican fast bowler played six Tests for West Indies between 1935 and 1939. In 1955, he was hanged for murdering his wife, the only Test player ever executed. He had confronted his wife about an affair, she had confessed. He pleaded in court that he was only trying to kill himself, except seven bullets were found inside his wife.
Another West Indian cricketer, Warrington Phillip, who played first-class matches for Leeward Islands, was given a life sentence in 2009 for murdering his wife in 2006.
Clifford Etienne
American boxer who began his career in jail, and is likely to end his life inside a prison as well. Etienne began boxing while serving a 40-year prison sentence for armed robbery, got so good that he was released in 10, and featured in some of the most well-known heavyweight bouts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 2005, he robbed a shop at gunpoint, hijacked a car with a woman and her children inside, and shot at the police. In 2006 he was given a 150-year prison sentence.
Robert Rozier
Played in the NFL, the highest stage of American football, joined a black supremacist cult, and shot seven people dead in the 1980s. He got his sentence reduced after testifying against the cult’s leader, but is back in jail after being convicted of fraud.
Gavin Grant
English first division footballer who played for Millwall and Bradford City, he was convicted in 2010 for shooting down a neighbour in 2004.
Mark Rogowski
American teen icon and pro-skateboarder who helped define the sport in the 1980s, he admitted to raping and murdering a friend of his former lover in 1991.
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First Published: Mon, Feb 18 2013. 07 03 PM IST
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