How the mighty fall: Oscar Pistorius becomes the latest idol to lose credibility

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A man never far away from debate has seemingly sparked the biggest controversy of his career after being charged with the murder of his girlfriend.

The “Blade Runner” is often in the news due to his participation with able-bodied athletes, as it has often been cited that his metal prosthetics give him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athlete. This was found to not be true and as a result in 2008, it was ruled that he had no significant advantage due to being lower in the blocks, allowing him to compete in able-bodied events.

This meant that last summer, we saw Pistorius competing in both the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, where he won 3 medals (2 gold and 1 silver) in the Paralympics and reached the semi-finals of the 400 metres in the Olympics. Thus, he was very much at the height of his career and at the height of his influence, as more and more people were idolising Pistorius, who despite high adversity had managed via hard work to compete with able-bodied athletes. People viewed him as almost superhuman.

However, this was shattered suddenly, as the world awoke on Valentine’s Day to the news that Pistorius had been arrested on suspicion of murder, after his girlfriend had been found dead at his’ home. Since then, Pistorius has been charged with shooting Steenkamp and with accounts involving a cricket bat portraying a very different Pistorius to the one whose sporting achievements have propelled him to stardom.

This follows a line of high profile sportsmen, at the top of their game, who have been very publicly defaced. The most obvious example is Lance Armstrong, whose Cinderella story captured the attention of millions. He was thought to be an example that anything was possible in life, as despite having multiple cancers, he recovered to win a record 7 tours and an Olympic medal. Furthermore, it was thought that Armstrong was different to rivals such as Jan Ulrich who had been found guilty of doping, something that Armstrong always vigorously denied. This was until recently when allegations levelled at him caused Armstrong to finally admit to his doping and cause his reputation to lay in ruins, as many people felt juped by his story.

From this, is it true to say that we are too quick to idolise, as whilst on the surface our sporting heroes may seem just that but behind this façade is often (as recently proved) a darker side, that has the power to overshadow everything that came before. I think this is a very interesting point to consider because the regard in which someone is held is crucial in this age of modern media because idols can be found on adverts, television, newspapers and before long, we are surrounded by these idols. Thus, they have the ability to become household names very quickly with the help of these medians and so really it is up to these companies to assess their credentials as an idol before starting nationwide and even global campaigns.

In retrospect of these dark sides though, it clearly proves that idolisation is somewhat pointless because the people you idolise are purely doing their job, just like everyone else in society. So, just like everyone else they also have a private life that hides their secrets. Therefore, there is little difference between idolising someone close to you who has achieved outstanding things and who you know for sure is the hero they appear and a sports star who you don’t truly know that much about. So, in fact it is much more inspiring if the person is close to you, because you know their achievements are truly achievements.

Lastly, I don’t feel that this is purely limited to sport either because the Jimmy Savile allegations have led to high profile members of the entertainment industry having their reputations left in ruins as their name will forever more be linked to sexual abuse and not their career. It all paints a very dim view of those who we make celebrities and those who we let inspire us, raising very deep questions about the part that morals are left to play in today’s society because often idolisation is caused by material achievement and not by people acting with morals and professionalism to achieve the extraordinary.

By Alex Knight (theknightlyblog)

(Image Courtesy of www.bbc.co.uk)

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