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Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius stands inside the court as a police officer looks on during his bail hearing at the magistrate court in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. (Themba Hadebe/AP)

As if the story were not depressing enough, the latest development in Oscar Pistorius’ alleged murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, was another dagger in what had once been the feel-good story of the 2012 London Olympics.

In court testimony on Wednesday the South African police said they had found two boxes of a substance they believe to be testosterone and needles in the double amputee’s apartment in Pretoria, where the shooting took place. Later in the day on Wednesday, Police back tracked. A spokesman for the state prosecutor says it’s too early to identify the substance, which is still undergoing laboratory tests.

Inevitably, this has led to speculation that ‘roid rage’ was a factor in the killing, which Pistorius says was an accident, and that the disabled Olympian, in addition to being an alleged murderer, is also a sports cheater.

Pistorius’ defense team refutes the police claim, saying that the vials hold a “herbal remedy” that is perfectly legal.

We shall soon learn the truth.

But the use of needles to inject a herbal remedy sounds, on the face of it, preposterous. No more preposterous, I suppose, than Pistorius’ assertion that he awakened to a noise in the bathroom, unholstered his gun, strapped on his prosthetic legs, walked down the hall in the dark, and fired four times through the bathroom door, fearing for his life, all while thinking Steenkamp was asleep in their bed.

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius competes before wining at Men's 4 x 100 Relay T42-46 final at the 2012 Paralympics in London, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius competes before wining at Men’s 4 x 100 Relay T42-46 final at the 2012 Paralympics in London, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

No: “Reeva, wake up! a burglar!” No: “Reeva, do you hear that?” No: “Reeva, call the police!”

Just blam! Blam! Blam! Blam!

And his 29-year-old girlfriend, who prosecutors say was hiding from an enraged Pistorius in the bathroom, was dead.

Though there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, and some studies, that suggest it is real, ‘roid rage is not a condition that the medical community officially recognizes. Nor is it restricted to the usage of anabolic steroids. Elevated levels of testosterone can also lead to violent, unpredictable behavior in dopers.

In June 2007, professional wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife and 7-year-old son before hanging himself in a grisly murder/suicide. Professional wrestlers have long been known to be among the worst steroid abusers on the planet, but in this case toxicology tests showed that Benoit had been taking testosterone.

Baseball slugger Barry Bonds’ mistress, Kimberly Bell, testified at Bonds’ perjury and obstruction trial that his steroid use made him “aggressive, irritable, agitated, very impatient, almost violent,” and that he once threatened to “cut my head off and leave me in a ditch.”

Another superstar baseball player suspected of ‘roid rage was Roger Clemens, who in game two of the 2000 World Series fielded the sharp barrel of a broken bat near the mound and fired it toward Mets catcher Mike Piazza, who had shattered it while fouling off a pitch. Clemens explanation for his irrational reaction? He was blowing off “nervous energy.” Years later his manager, Joe Torre, acknowledged it looked more like ‘roid rage.

Another supposed athletic hero, this one with prosthetic limbs made of clay, falls from grace. You’d think we’d learn not to put them onto a pedestal.

In football, Oakland Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski ripped off teammate Marcus Williams’ helmet during a preseason practice and punched him in the eye, breaking Williams’ left orbital bone. Williams’ transgression? Romanowski, an admitted steroid user, claimed Williams was holding him on the play. Williams never played football again. He sued Romanowski and they settled out of court for $340,000.

You get the idea. Whenever a suspected steroid user does something irrational and violent, ‘roid rage is the usual suspect. Mike Tyson bites off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear? Was it the steroids? (Which Tyson was never directly linked to.) Or was Tyson just a nut? Or both?

The sprinter Pistorius had never failed a doping test, at either the Paralympic or Olympic Games. But we all know how little that means. Athletes are good at cheating. And, as we’ve seen time and again, they’re also good at lying. It’s a red herring, in any event.

Whether Pistorius was juiced to the gills when he shot his girlfriend, as many suspect, or a blood test proves he was clean, it doesn’t change the fact that he is responsible for killing that girl on Valentine’s night. Even if his version of the events is to be believed, it’s hard to imagine a more careless discharging of a firearm… in the dark… through a door… at an unknown target… four times…

Another supposed athletic hero, this one with prosthetic limbs made of clay, falls from grace. You’d think we’d learn not to put them onto a pedestal.

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Tags: Baseball, Celebrity, Crime, Football, Guns, Law, Olympics 2012

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/chokecity Chōkdee R Rutirasiri

    Why are all the media outlets pointing out that the victim is a model? If she were an accountant or a registered nurse or a programmer, would the story mention that: “his girlfriend, accountant Reeva Steenkamp…”? Ms. Steenkamp’s occupation is not relevant to the story whatsoever but we all know why the media keeps pointing it out. I’m just a little disappointed that would show up here in WBUR’s blog.

  • Ian

    This writer is a hack. He doesn’t know anything about the evidence and the facts and he is just regurgitating the speculation from the reports out of South Africa. Nowhere does he mention that the neighborhood Pistorious lives in is dangerous and frequently has burglars and crime. Nor does this writer, sitting in his house in Massachusetts understand the completely different culture and practices of South Africa. If we didn’t have the FDA controlling whats on the market don’t you think we would have a few more people injecting herbal supplements?

    I’m not taking sides, as I dont think he should have fired the gun through the door in the first place but this blog isn’t opinion and it shouldn’t be on this site.

    • roggen

      This writer is far from a hack. Ed is a long-proven sports reporter who we have followed throughout his career. I believe Ed here has presented a measured article about what appears to be ‘roid rage and how it has affected the lives of other athletes’ wives. And contrary to your allegation that “this blog isn’t opinion and it shouldn’t be on this site” this article is his opinion and should be left up for anyone to read. You may have a point about him and us readers not knowing what the conditions may be like in South Africa – however, he does live in a gated community where he should be safe. And there is no excuse for firing 4 bullets through a door at an unknown person!

  • Charles

    it’s a stretch to call Pistorius an “athletic hero”, and I am puzzled why so much media attention has been paid to this story. He has (had) an inspiring story to be sure, but there is a world of difference between what he has accomplished in sports and someone like Tiger Woods or Barry Bonds or Kobe Bryant. Yes, he may have been a “feel good story” of the Olympics, as the writer says, but that almost by definition means that his fame is in large part a media creation, with a modest boost from his athletic activities. I would imagine that one could find many equally inspiring personal stories from the ranks of Para-Olympians, without all the shady behavior and pathologic self-regard. Why should we morbidly make him even more infamous?

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