Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius’ cross-examination ends at murder trial

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The chief prosecutor in Oscar Pistorius‘ murder trial ended five days of cross-examining the runner Tuesday, saying Pistorius knowingly fatally shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after they had an argument on Valentine’s Day 2013.

Pistorius, who has said he shot through a door thinking an intruder was behind it, called it a “hypothetical” argument.

“Your version is not only untruthful, it’s so improbable that it cannot be reasonably true,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said, drawing an “I don’t agree” response from Pistorius. “You armed yourself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her.

“Afterwards, you were overcome by what you’ve done. … Only because it was your intention to kill her.”

Those final comments from Nel with Pistorius in the witness box were subdued compared to his most stinging questions in the Pretoria court room on the 23rd day of the trial.

Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. If not found guilty of premeditated murder, he could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter for negligent killing.

“Who should we blame for the Black Talon [bullet] rounds that ripped through her body?” Nel asked, drawing Judge Thokozile Masipa to intervene, saying it was a rephrasing of previous questions.

Pistorius recounted his actions from last year after he shot four times through a locked bathroom door, hitting Steenkamp inside.

He said he bashed open the door with a cricket bat, crouched over Steenkamp seated on the floor and checked to see if she was breathing. Pistorius felt that she wasn’t at first, but then he said he heard her breathing.

“I was talking to her all the time, saying baby please hold on,” Pistorius said. “Jesus, please help me. I was praying for her.”

He tried to but couldn’t pick her up, so he moved her outside of the toilet room and into the outer bathroom. He grabbed her phone from inside the toilet room but didn’t know the passcode to access it. So he ran into his bedroom, took his phone and called for help.

Pistorius said he screamed while trying to break into the bathroom but was questioned by Nel as to why he stopped yelling out when he saw it was Steenkamp behind the door.

“I was broken,” Pistorius said. “I was overcome by sadness. So I wouldn’t have screamed out.”

In brief re-examination, defense attorney Barry Roux had Pistorius read the Valentine’s Day card that Steenkamp made for him that Pistorius did not open until Aug. 19, Steenkamp’s 30th birthday.

“Roses are red, violets are blue,” Pistorius said it read on one side. “I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you.”

Later, forensic expert Roger Dixon testified, with the aid of photos, of how dark Pistorius’ room was, about damage to the toilet door and wounds to Steenkamp’s back and butt. Pistorius covered his eyes and ears while Dixon talked about Steenkamp’s wounds.

Nel asked for a trial break until May 5, still expecting to fit it in the window deadline of May 16. Masipa said she would rule on that Wednesday.

Here’s NBC News’ full coverage of the trial.

One runner dies, another goes missing, found after London Marathon

Russian skeleton stars banned from World Cups

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The two Russians who had their medals from the Sochi Olympics stripped because of doping have been barred from competing in World Cup races, at least temporarily.

It’s the latest sanction against Alexander Tretiyakov and Elena Nikitina, who had their medals — gold for Tretiyakov, bronze for Nikitina — taken away Wednesday after it was determined they were part of Russia’s state-sponsored doping program for Sochi.

They have already been banned from future Olympics and now may have no place to slide.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation handed down the suspensions Thursday, effective immediately.

Tretiyakov and Nikitina were both planning to compete in World Cup races at Whistler, B.C., this weekend.

In all, four Russians have been suspended by the IBSF.

Along with Tretiyakov and Nikitina, Maria Orlova and Olga Potylitsyna — who have been racing on the lesser-tier Intercontinental Cup Circuit this season — were also banned, just as they were by the IOC.

All four are expected to appeal, and the IBSF said they will be entitled to a hearing if that happens.

“Sport is all about who’s the best on that day and if anything compromises that, like the situations in Sochi, it taints everything and kind of undermines the fundamental belief in the system and the competition itself,” said USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele, also is a vice president with the IBSF. “This is kind of righting the ship.”

The IBSF’s decision is a strong one and is in stark contrast to one made by the International Ski Federation (FIS), which is allowing Russian cross-country skiers found guilty of doping in Sochi to compete in World Cup events this weekend.

FIS wants to see detailed reasons why the IOC disciplinary panel reached its decisions about the Russian athletes.

The IBSF isn’t waiting.

“I understand that it was a difference of culture and that the Russians don’t believe they did anything wrong,” U.S. skeleton veteran Katie Uhlaender said after the IOC decision to strip the medals and issue the Olympic bans was announced Wednesday. “But this was the only way to fix it.”

Uhlaender should be promoted to the bronze medal spot once Nikitina, as the IOC has ordered, surrenders what had been her bronze from Sochi.

Tretiyakov was the men’s gold medalist; the revised results for that event would have Latvia’s Martins Dukurs getting gold, Matt Antoine of the U.S. bumped up to silver and Latvia’s Tomass Dukurs, Martins’ brother, taking bronze.

Uhlaender, originally fourth, would be third behind gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold of Britain and silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace of the U.S.

Sliders lauded the IOC for doing the right thing, though noted that racers like Uhlaender and Tomass Dukurs — even once they have medals in hand — will never be able to replicate the moment on a podium that they should have had in Sochi.

“Having the physical medal’s cool, but most of it in my opinion is the experience of everything that happens,” Antoine said. “That’s what you cherish the most.”

Not having the top Russians on the World Cup circuit figures to have a major impact on the points standings.

Nikitina leads after the first two races of the season, including a win last weekend in Park City, Utah.

Tretiyakov is fourth in the men’s standings, including a bronze at the season opener in Lake Placid, N.Y.

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Russian skiers banned from Olympics allowed to race World Cup opener

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian cross-country skiers found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics can compete in World Cup races this weekend because the International Ski Federation (FIS) has been unable to prosecute its own cases in time.

Six Russians, including two Sochi medalists, were retroactively disqualified from the Winter Games this month and banned from the Olympics for life by the IOC.

FIS previously blocked all six from competing with interim suspensions, but those expired on Oct. 31. The International Olympic Committee judging panel then reached its verdicts this month.

However, FIS said Thursday that its own judicial body lacks key IOC documents to process cases.

“Consequently, the FIS Doping Panel is obliged to wait until the IOC Disciplinary Commission reasoned decisions are submitted with details of the evidence relied on,” said the governing body, which is responsible for imposing competition bans.

“As a consequence the active athletes are eligible to compete in FIS including World Cup competitions for the time being,” FIS said.

The World Cup season for men and women begins Friday in Ruka, Finland, with sprint and long-distance racing.

Organizers had not published starting lists Thursday for the three-day meeting and it was unclear which of the six intend to start.

Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin both won multiple medals in Sochi but were stripped by the IOC. The others suspended by the IOC were Evgeny Belov, Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova.

FIS said rules governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency meant it could not re-impose interim bans without “a specific allegation” plus evidence.

Attempting to assure cross-country skiers they will not be competing against doped rivals, FIS said an additional and independent testing program for Russians has been in operation since June and has taken about 250 blood and urine samples.

The three-man IOC disciplinary panel — chaired by Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer and member of the Olympic body’s executive board — has not issued detailed reasons for judgments in 10 cases from Sochi so far completed in cross-country skiing and skeleton.

Without positive doping tests, the panel used evidence of state-backed cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles in the Sochi laboratory first gathered last year by WADA investigator Richard McLaren.

At least 18 more Russian athletes are having their cases prosecuted in an ongoing series of hearings in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On Wednesday, the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said it would update “within the next days” action against four Russians, including the Sochi gold medalist Alexander Tretiyakov and bronze medalist Elena Nikitina.

Nikitina won a skeleton World Cup race last weekend in Park City, Utah — a result which may soon be overturned by the IBSF.

All the Russian athletes disqualified by the IOC can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

On Dec. 5, IOC President Thomas Bach will announce after a board meeting if the Russian team will be banned from the Olympics, which open Feb. 9 in PyeongChang.

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MORE: IOC sets date, time to announce Russia Olympic decision