VENTURES AFRICA – South Africa Paralympics star, Oscar Pistorius, has been dumped by two major corporate sponsors, sportswear giant Nike and top sunglasses brand Oakley, following steroid allegations and a premeditated murder charge for shooting his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
While Oakley suspended its sponsorship contract with Pistorius, Nike has distanced its brand from the Pistorius affair with the affirmation that it would not use him in its future ads.
Nike Inc. told The Associated Press (AP) on Monday that it had no plans to use Pistorius in future campaigns.
However, the company declined to say whether Nike had previously had any plans for Pistorius, or whether it will remove current advertising that includes him.
Nike has already pulled down a 2007 Nike Internet ad showing Pistorius starting to sprint in his blades with the caption: “I am the bullet in the chamber”.
Wilkins said the wording in the 2007 campaign “was in reference to Oscar’s speed and performance on the track. Nike felt it was appropriate to take the ad down from Oscar’s website recognizing the sensitivities of the situation.”
Pistorius’ website, which has been posting statements from his manager and his family, still shows other Nike ads, as well as logos from Nike, Oakley and other companies, AP reported.
Meanwhile, Oakley spokeswoman Cheri Quigley said that “In light of the recent allegations, Oakley is suspending its contract with Oscar Pistorius, effective immediately. Our hearts are with the families during this difficult time and we’ll continue to follow the developments in this tragic case.”
Oakley has been associated with Pistorius since 2009.
Pistorius is the world’s highest paid Paralympics athlete. He reportedly made $4.7 million dollars from lucrative sponsorships.
Pistorius became people’s favorite when he became the first amputee athlete to run at the world championships in 2011, and then made history by competing in the London Olympics last year against sprint athletes with his amputated legs, racing on carbon-fiber blades. He later clinched gold at the 100, 200 and 400-metre events at the London Paralympics.
However, at the height of his success, Pistorius was on Thursday, Feb 14, charged for allegedly shooting his girlfriend to death at his gated home in Pretoria, South Africa.
Pistorius’ best friend, Justin Divaris, told reporters that a distraught Pistorius called him just before 4 a.m. on the day of the incident saying there had been a terrible accident, and that he shot Steenkamp.
Another friend, Kevin Lerena said the sprinter accidentally shot him on his foot last month at a restaurant.
His family insists the shooting was accidental.
South Africa’s City Press newspaper reported that police are investigating on whether Pistorius had an anger-management problem after a bloodied cricket bat was found in his bedroom. Police says the racket may have been used before the shooting that led to his girlfriend’s death.
Ofentse Mogawane, Pistorius’ teammate in the South African Olympic team has however refuted the claim in support of his friend.
“Basically, he was a very good guy to us, to the teammates and to most athletes,” Mogawane said. “He was a really humble person and I wouldn’t say a bad word about him. We never had any kind of clash, never any kind of fight or disagreement or arguing.
Pistorius will be in court on Tuesday on murder charges while his attorneys are expected to argue against the charge of premeditated murder.
Pistorius stands to face at least 25 years in jail if he is found guilty.
Nevertheless, if evidence is given during Pistorious trial that he was taking steroids before or during the London Games; his Paralympic world records will be annulled and he would be stripped of his London 2012 Paralympic medals.
The sprinter broke the world record over 200 metres, at the London Paralympics.
In it reaction, the World Anti-Doping Agency said that it would allow the criminal proceedings to run their course rather than open an immediate case against him.
“Wada is aware of the newspaper reports suggesting that steroids were found at the home of Oscar Pistorius. “As this is a police matter, Wada and the South Africa Institute for Drug-Free Sport must work appropriately with the police. Bearing in mind the ongoing police investigation, Wada must refrain from making any statement at present, Wada said.
Pistorius’ agent, Peet Van Zyl, has cancelled the athlete’s future scheduled races which was supposed to hold through late May in Australia, the United States, Brazil and Britain. The races were scheduled to keep the sprinter fit for the world championships in August.
The decision was made to “allow Oscar to concentrate on the upcoming legal proceedings and to help and support all those involved as they try to come to terms with this very difficult and distressing situation,” Van Zyl said.