PRETORIA, South Africa -
Corporate sponsors of Olympic "blade runner" Oscar Pistorius have begun to distance themselves from the sprinter, who is accused of murdering his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp . Pistorius is back to court in South Africa Tuesday morning on murder charges.
Oakley, the eyewear manufacturer, and the sporting goods giant Nike announced today that they would no longer run ads featuring Pistorius, the South African double-amputee who gained worldwide fame for running on carbon-fiber blades.
"In light of the recent allegations, Oakley is suspending its contract with Oscar Pistorius, effective immediately. Our hearts are with the families during this difficult time and we'll continue to follow the developments in this tragic case," Oakley spokeswoman Cheri Quigley said in a statement released this afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Nike said it had "no plans" to use Pistorius in future ad campaigns, according to the Associated Press. Nike had already pulled an Internet ad showing Pistorius starting to sprint with the caption, "I am the bullet in the chamber."
The companies made their announcements shortly after Pistorius' own agent, Peet Van Zyl, said publicly that he expected the sponsors to stick with Pistorius through the legal process.
Pistorius will appear in court Tuesday morning for a bail hearing. His attorneys are expected to argue against the charge of premeditated murder.
His family has said the shooting was an accident.
The news comes as more details emerge about the incident on Thursday morning in which Pistorius allegedly shot and killed Steenkamp at his gated home in Pretoria, South Africa.
News reports in local papers have said that police are investigating whether Pistorius had an anger-management problem that led to the incident. They focused in on a bloodied cricket bat that may have been used when Steenkamp died.
A "shocked" teammate of Oscar Pistorius rebutted the rumors and speculation in South Africa that Pistorius had an anger problem.
Ofentse Mogawane, a sprinter for the South African Olympic team who ran the 400-meter relay with Pistorius in the London summer games last year, said Pistorius had always been genial to him and other people.
Mogawane said he would be in court Tuesday to support his friend.
"Basically, he was a very good guy to us, to the teammates and to most athletes," Mogawane said. "He was a really humble person and I wouldn't say a bad word about him. We never had any kind of clash, never any kind of fight or disagreement or arguing.
"The way Oscar's case was, it shocked me, shocked most of the people who know him. Tomorrow in court I am going to be there to support him. To hear what happened the night of the incident," he said.
"Sometimes when people are angry they cannot control their anger. Something must have happened."
Mogawane, 30, spoke in support of Pistorius after a report in South Africa's City Press newspaper that claimed police were looking into the possibility that a bloody cricket bat found in his bedroom was used before the shooting.
"The way the news has been running around in South Africa, that he is a short-tempered person, a person who has problems with anger management, they just want something to say," Mogawane said. "They don't know Oscar at all. They just want to get interviewed and take pictures. But truly speaking, it's just a lot of speculation."
Mogawane said he had seen Pistorius become angry before, but only in the same way as any other athlete or person.
But the City Press reported Sunday that police are investigating different scenarios involving the bat. Among them is the possibility that the flat-fronted bat was used in a violent argument before the shooting.
The paper also reported that Pistorius might have first shot Steenkamp in the bedroom, and that she possibly fled to the bathroom where she was shot three more times through the door.
When Pistorius' family arrived at the scene before paramedics, they saw him carrying Steenkamp down the stairs and performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her, City Press reported.
Pistorius, who is nicknamed the "blade runner" because of the carbon-fiber blades on which he runs, has canceled all his upcoming racing appearances, his agent said Sunday night.
The decision was made to "allow Oscar to concentrate on the upcoming legal proceedings and to help and support all those involved as they try to come to terms with this very difficult and distressing situation," Van Zyl, of In Site Athlete Management, said in a statement.
Pistorius' father was quoted overnight in the South African paper The Sunday Times saying his countrymen are destroying a national icon.
"There is something fundamentally wrong with our society," Henke Pistorius said. "We build people up into heroes, who overcome immense challenges, only to take great glee in breaking them down."
Family and friends rallied to Pistorius' defense, saying they believe he shot Steenkamp by accident after he mistook her for an intruder.
"We have no doubt
here that there's no substance for the allegations," his uncle Arnold Pistorius said.
Pistorius' best friend, Justin Divaris, told reporters that he received a call from a distraught Pistorius just before 4 a.m. Feb. 14 in which he said there had been a terrible accident, and that he shot Steenkamp.
If convicted, Pistorius could face at least 25 years in jail. A memorial service for Steenkamp will be held in Port Elizabeth Tuesday evening. Her body has been flown back for the service before being cremated, her family told local media.
Speaking with the media for the first time since her daughter's death in a phone interview with The Sunday Times from her home in Seaview, Port Elizabeth, June Steenkamp said, "Why? Why my little girl? Why did this happen? Why did he do this? What for?"