Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius to undergo psychiatric evaluation, trial delayed

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Oscar Pistorius will undergo psychiatric evaluation, delaying his murder trial, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled Wednesday.

Masipa granted an application from the prosecution that Pistorius be placed under mental observation, citing South African law after a forensic psychiatrist testifed that he had an anxiety disorder. The disorder may have played a role in his fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year and could affect the judge’s verdict.

“I’m persuaded that the requirement of a reasonable possibility has been met,” said Masipa, who did not outline a specific length for the evaluation. “A referral inevitably means more delays in finalizing this matter, but this is not about anyone’s convenience but rather about whether justice has been served.”

Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, said he thought an intruder was locked inside his bathroom when he shot four times through a locked door, hitting and killing Steenkamp inside on Valentine’s Day 2013. He has not claimed he was mentally incapacitated at the time.

He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. If not found guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter for negligent killing.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Merryll Vorster testified Monday that Pistorius had generalized anxiety disorder, based off two interviews with him earlier this month.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel cited Section 78 of South Africa’s Criminal Procedure Act in applying for Pistorius to undergo psychiatric evaluation. The law states:

(1) A person who commits an act or makes an omission which constitutes an
offence and who at the time of such commission or omission suffers from a mental
illness or mental defect which makes him or her incapable-
(a) of appreciating the wrongfulness of his or her act or omission; or
(b) of acting in accordance with an appreciation of the wrongfulness of his
or her act or omission,
shall not be criminally responsible for such act or omission.

The defense argued that Pistorius’ general anxiety disorder is not a mental illness applicable in the cited law, though it’s clear from the law he could be acquitted if found not criminally responsible for shooting Steenkamp due to mental illness.

“The effect of the evidence is that a doubt has been created that the accused [Pistorius] may possibly have another defense relating to his criminal responsibility,” Masipa said. “There is also a possibility that there may be diminished criminal responsibility.”

Masipa called her ruling an “integral part of a fair trial” and said the specific order will be handed down Tuesday.

Pistorius stood with his hands clasped, wavering slightly, as Masipa spoke for 15 minutes before issuing her ruling.

Masipa said it would be preferable for Pistorius to be an outpatient as he undergoes the psychiatric evaluation.

“The aim of referral is not to punish the accused twice,” she said.

The trial that began March 3 and has taken multiple breaks is now 32 days old.

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

Vladimir Putin argues against tampered Sochi samples in latest doping denial

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. President Vladimir Putin says Russia will close its military base in Kyrgyzstan if the government of the Central Asian nation asks it to. Putin was speaking on Tuesday in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, as part of a Central Asian tour. (Alexei Nikolsky/Pool Photo via AP)
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In his latest denial of state-run doping, Vladimir Putin dismissed reports that tampering of Russian urine samples at the Sochi Olympics marked evidence of an organized doping program.

“Of course, and naturally enough, there is this issue of claims regarding scratches of some kind on some of the test samples,” the Russian president said Wednesday. “We do not understand what kind of evidence can we talk about because when we provided the test samples [to authorities] there were no complaints. If there was a problem with scratches of whatever kind, this should have been noted in the relevant reports, but there was nothing of this sort.

“In other words, these samples were stored somewhere, and we cannot be held responsible for the storage conditions.”

During the Sochi Olympics, doping samples of Russian athletes were opened and replaced with clean urine, according to a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned independent report headed by Dr. Richard McLaren last year.

McLaren’s reports said that scratches and marks were found on the sample bottles upon further examination two years after the Winter Games, but the marks were not visible until microscopic examination. The samples were taken from a laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, where they were stored after the Sochi Winter Games.

McLaren’s reports said the conspiracy involved the Russian Sports Ministry, national anti-doping agency and the FSB intelligence service, the current version of the Soviet Union’s KGB.

Putin has denied a state-run doping system in Russia in the months since the McLaren reports. On Dec. 23, he said such a program was “absolutely impossible,” while also saying the nation has a doping problem “like any other country.”

“Let me say again, and we said it repeatedly, that Russia has never had, and I hope never will have, a state system supporting doping,” Putin said Wednesday. “On the contrary, Russia will only combat doping.”

While denying, Putin added that Russia needed to heed the McLaren reports’ findings, “despite the shortcomings in its work.”

“We must pay heed to its work and its results, and to WADA’s demands, because we need to acknowledge that there are established and identified cases of doping here, and this is a totally unacceptable situation,” Putin said. “What this means is that our existing anti-doping monitoring system has not worked effectively, and this is our fault, and is something we need to admit and address directly.”

WADA said later Wednesday it was encouraged by Putin admitting that Russia’s anti-doping system failed, calling it a sign of progress.

Putin noted that Russia is putting a new anti-doping system into place.

“I hope that we will no longer have any swindlers, who organize doping programs themselves and then flee abroad,” Putin said, intimating whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, whose evidence of Sochi sample tampering was supported by the McLaren reports. “I hope that our independent specialists and foreign specialists will help us to develop a strict and effective anti-doping system.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Another Beijing Olympic medal stripped as total nears 50

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12:  Viktoriya Tereshchuk of Ukraine riding Walk This Way competes during the Riding Show Jumping in the Women's Modern Pentathlon on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 12, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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The tally of 2008 Olympic medals stripped moved closer to 50 after Ukraine modern pentathlete Victoria Tereshchuk lost her bronze for doping via retesting of her samples from the Beijing Games.

More than 80 athletes from the Beijing Olympics have been disqualified for doping, according to Olympic historians. More than 40 medals have been stripped.

Tereschchuk’s samples came back positive for the anabolic steroid turinabol, a common substance found in retesting that has led to stripped medals.

The fourth-place finisher in the 2008 Olympic modern pentathlon, Anastasiya Samusevich of Belarus, is in line to be upgraded to bronze.

The list of stripped 2008 Olympic medals is wide-ranging, in sports including cycling, track and field, weightlifting and wrestling. The athletes have primarily come from Russia and Eastern Europe.

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