Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius mentally OK during shooting, panel says

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Oscar Pistorius did not suffer from a mental illness that could have affected his ability to distinguish right from wrong when he shot and killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a mental evaluation panel determined during a month and a half break in his murder trial.

The trial resumed in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday, its first court session since May 14, when the judge ordered Pistorius be taken for mental tests at the request of the prosecution. A psychiatrist had testified Pistorius suffered from an anxiety disorder.

Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, was capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act on the early morning of Valentine’s Day 2013, according to the panel.

The athlete said he thought an intruder was locked inside his bathroom when he shot four times through a locked door, hitting and killing girlfriend Steenkamp inside.

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

Last week, one of Pistorius’ lawyers said he expected the trial to last a couple more weeks.

The orthopedic surgeon who amputated Pistorius’ legs below the knees when he was 11 months old was one of two witnesses to testify Monday.

Dr. Gerald Versfeld, who said he still treats Pistorius, quoted the athlete talking about his difficulty moving without his prosthetic legs on. Pistorius has said he shot at who he thought was an intruder while on his stumps, feeling extremely vulnerable.

Pistorius is unable to stand still on his stumps and estimated he falls once every week or two weeks when not wearing his legs. The struggles are exacerbated in darkness, such as the circumstances the night of the shooting, he said.

“His ability of fleeing is severely impaired, and his ability to ward off danger is severely impaired on his stumps,” Versfeld said.

Lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Versfeld’s objectivity, especially given Versfeld testified about his visit with Pistorius in May, after Pistorius testified during the trial.

Later, an acoustics expert testified after a 45-minute tea break and a 20-minute discussion about a missing extension cord from Pistorius’ bedroom.

Electrical engineer Ivan Lin said that screams from Pistorius’ bedroom or bathroom likely would not have been audible or intelligible from neighbors’ bedrooms 177m away. Earlier in the trial, neighbors from distances up to 177m away testified to hearing screams, some saying women’s screams, the night of the shooting.

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

Pistorius’ trial is expected to resume at 3:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

Ukraine city Lviv withdraws 2022 Winter Olympic bid

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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