Tag Archives: convenience

Oscar Pistorius due in court charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius arrives at court charged with the murder of girlfriend Reeva SteenkampPistorius has arrived at the Pretoria Magistrates Court
His girlfriend was allegedly shot four times through the bathroom doorIncident happened at his Pretoria mansion, north of Johannesburg
Dead woman is former FHM model Reeva Steenkamp
She was shot several times in the head and hand
Celebrated sprinter spent the night in a police cell before the hearing

Becomes the first double amputee to run at the Olympic Games, reaching the semi-finals of the 400m and the final of the 4x400m. Carries the South African flag at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony and then wins a silver and two gold medals in the 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay.

February 2013 Charged with murder after his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, is shot dead.

Pistorius's father and sister are in the front row in a heaving court room. His father said Pistorius was 'sad' following the shooting.

Henke Pistorius told SABC radio news: 'I don't know the facts. If anyone makes a statement, it will have to be Oscar. He's sad at the moment.'

The couple had been dubbed the Posh and Becks of South Africa.

The defence is expected to argue that Pistorius is not a flight risk and should be bailed.

Forensic experts are expected to continue examining the house in the upmarket Silver Woods gated community.

Near the home, people who knew Pistorius recalled a much-loved local hero.

'Some of us were in tears,' said Precious, who works at a petrol station where Pistorius used to fill up his McLaren supercar, signing autographs and picking up the tab for people in the convenience store.

'He was just so kind to everyone,' Precious said.

Initial reports suggested the model may
have been mistaken for a burglar, but Brigadier Denise Beukes later said
police were 'very surprised' by that suggestion, adding: 'These
allegations did not come from us.'

There
had been previous incidents of a 'domestic nature' at the property on
the exclusive, gated Silver Lakes Golf Estate in the South African
capital Pretoria, she added. A 9mm pistol was recovered.

Police
spokeswoman Lt Col Katlego Mogale said: 'Paramedics declared the woman
dead on the scene and police proceeded with their investigation.

'The woman sustained wounds to her head and the upper body.'

Police said an application for bail by Pistorius's lawyer Kenny Oldwage would be opposed when he appears in court.

Charged: Pistorius, his head lowered and face covered, leaves the Boschkop police station in Pretoria for a blood test at hospital prior to being taken to court

Charged: Pistorius, his head lowered and face covered, leaves the Boschkop police station in Pretoria for a blood test at hospital prior to being taken to court

Oscar Pistorius with his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg, South Africa, in November. Pistorius is due in court today charged with her murder

Murder suspect: Olympic and Paralympic star Reeva Steenkamp, 30, who was shot dead yesterday. The runner is due in court today

Last photo: Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp pose for a picture in Johannesburg last Thursday

Last photo: Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp pose for a
picture in Johannesburg last Thursday. He has been charged with shooting
her dead in the early hours of yesterday morning

Ominous: The Paralympic sprinter posted this message on Twitter on November 27

Ominous: The Paralympic sprinter posted this message on Twitter on November 27

Dressed
in a grey hooded jacket, tracksuit trousers and trainers, Pistorius,
26, walked with head bowed from the Boschkop police station yesterday
before being taken to Pretoria's Mamelodi Day Hospital in a police
convoy.

Brig Beukes said the medical examination was 'standard procedure'.

Pistorius's spokesman, from the Fast
Track agency in London, said he was 'assisting the police with their
investigations' but no further comment could be made until matters
became clearer.

Initial rumours suggested the shooting may have been a Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong.

The couple had only been going out since November.

Miss Steenkamp, a model and law
graduate, tweeted the day before Valentine's Day: 'What do you have up
your sleeve for your love tomorrow #getexcited #ValentinesDay.'

Pistorius appeared to have serious concerns about his safety and was said to sleep with a revolver by his side.

Incident: Oscar Pistorius is believed to have shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, 30, a former FHM model, pictured together on January 26 in Johannesburg

Incident: Oscar Pistorius is believed to have shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, 30, a former FHM model, pictured together on January 26 in Johannesburg

Star: Oscar Pistorius has reportedly been arrested this morning having shot his girlfriend in the head and arm, killing her

Star: Oscar Pistorius was arrested yesterday morning accused of having shot his girlfriend in the head and arm, killing her

Sportsmail's Jonathan McEvoy interviewed him last summer and noted: 'This being South Africa, one
baseball bat and one cricket bat lie behind Pistorius's bedroom door.

'A revolver is at his bedside. A machine gun by his window.'

The athlete made history at the London
2012 Olympics becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete in the
able-bodied Games, running in the 400m and 4x400m relay.

Beauty: A modelling photo used in Reeva Steenkamp's portfolio. Mr Taylor said that she touched many lives and was headed for stardom'

Beauty: A modelling photo used in Reeva Steenkamp's portfolio. Mr Taylor
said that she 'touched many lives and was headed for stardom'

The star was born without fibulas and underwent below-the-knee amputations at just 11 months old.

He had to win a legal battle over his
blades with the International Association of Athletics Federations
(IAAF) in 2008 for the right to compete in able-bodied competition.

Pistorius's father said his son was 'sad' following the shooting.

Henke Pistorius told SABC radio news:
'I don't know the facts. If anyone makes a statement, it will have to be
Oscar. He's sad at the moment.'

Couple: Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp had been dating for a few months after meeting at a South African awards ceremony

Couple: Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp had been dating for a few months after meeting at a South African awards ceremony

Tweet

Message: Reeva yesterday went on to Twitter to say how excited she was about Valentine's Day

Message: Reeva went on to Twitter to say how excited she was about Valentine's Day

The couple were dubbed the Posh and Becks of South Africa.

On her Twitter biography, Miss
Steenkamp described herself as a 'Model, Cover Girl, Tropika Island Of
Treasure Celeb Contestant, Law Graduate, Child of God'.

Tropika island Of Treasure is a TV show she was due to appear on this weekend.

Model: Reeva Steenkamp had been seeing Oscar since November but had forged her own successful career in South Africa

Model: Reeva Steenkamp had been seeing Oscar since November but had forged her own successful career in South Africa

Reeva

Reeva

Famous: The 30-year-old has 3,000 followers on Twitter and is a law graduate from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Last appearance: Reeva Steenkamp was photographed at the Virgin Active Sports Industry Awards in Johannesburg a week ago

Last appearance: Reeva Steenkamp was photographed at the Virgin Active Sports Industry Awards in Johannesburg a week ago

Last appearance: Reeva Steenkamp was
photographed at the Virgin Active Sports Industry Awards in Johannesburg
a week ago (left) and was often showing her own snaps on Twitter

Miss Steenkamp's publicist Sarit
Tomlinson paid tribute to her, saying she was 'the sweetest human being
and an absolute angel on earth'.

She added: 'She was the kindest, most unbelievable girl.'

She told Sky News: 'It's shocking. No one knows what happened. We're waiting for information.

South African newspapers plastered the killing across their front pages, relegating a State of the Nation address by President Jacob Zuma in parliament to a distant second.

The coverage reflected shock and dismay at the fall of a sporting hero who commanded rare respect on all sides of South Africa's racial divides.

'Golden Boy Loses Shine' ran a front page headline in the Sowetan, beside a picture of Pistorius, head bowed in a grey hooded tracksuit being led away from a police station.

Callers to morning radio shows expressed remorse at the death of Steenkamp, who had been due to give a talk at a Johannesburg school this week about violence against women.

There was also widespread disbelief at the fate of a sporting legend regarded as a genuinely 'good guy'.

'How is it possible for one so high to fall so low so quickly' Talk Radio 702 host John Robbie said.

Home: Neighbours of the athlete say they heard noise from the house (pictured today) just before the authorities arrived

Home: Neighbours of the athlete say they heard noise from the house (pictured yesterday) just before the authorities arrived

Location: Pistorius's home is inside a gated housing complex with a nature reserve, golf course and lots of green space, all within high walls

Location: Pistorius's home is inside a gated housing complex with a nature reserve, golf course and lots of green space, all within high walls

Police: South African police vehicles enter the Siverwoods security estate in Pretoria East where famous South African paralympic and Olympic sprinter, Oscar Pistorius

Police: South African police vehicles enter the Silverwoods security
estate in Pretoria East where famous South African paralympic and
Olympic sprinter, Oscar Pistorius, allegedly shot and killed his
girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Investigation: Police spokeswoman Denise Beukes confirmed the celebrated athlete was in custody charged with murder

Investigation: Police spokeswoman Denise Beukes confirmed the celebrated athlete was in custody charged with murder

'There are people we are waiting to speak to, to validate some of the stories.'

Asked about Miss Steenkamp's
relationship with Pistorius, Ms Tomlinson said: 'They had been together
for a couple of months and it's been a fabulous relationship – a
healthy, fabulous relationship.'

Miss Steenkamp's friend Mashadi Motsogi broke down in tears.

The distressed model said she heard the news of Miss Steenkamp's death on Twitter.

'I have lost a friend,' she said, telling reporters that Miss Steenkamp's death in a secure complex did not make sense.

'Look, security here is safe. We moved
to this area for security reasons. It does not make sense to me that my
friend was shot, mistaken for an intruder.'

Advert: An image on Pistorius's website for his sponsor Nike linked to his love of shooting has been removed today

Advert: An image on Pistorius's website for his sponsor Nike, linked to his love of shooting, has been removed

Adverts for television coverage of the Oscars featuring Oscar Pistorius were seen being pulled down in Johannesburg today

Adverts for television coverage of the Oscars featuring Oscar Pistorius were seen being pulled down in Johannesburg

Workmen move quickly to replace the roadside posters in the South Africa city

Workmen move quickly to replace the roadside posters in the South Africa city

Oscar Pistorius' sister, Aimee, left, leaves the Mamelodi Hospital, east of Pretoria where she visited her brother while he was being examined earlier today

Oscar Pistorius' sister, Aimee, left, leaves the Mamelodi Hospital, east
of Pretoria where she visited her brother while he was being examined
earlier

Incident: Oscar Pistorius with Reeva Steenkamp, 30, a former FHM model who is believed to have been shot dead today

Famous: Reeva Steenkamp worked primarily for Ice Model Management in Johannesburg, who expressed their distress at her death today

Incident: Oscar Pistorius is accused of murdering Reeva Steenkamp, 30, a high profile model, pictured together in November at an awards ceremony, and right, doing her job

Scene: Police were called to Oscar's home, pictured, at 4am where a 30-year-old woman was treated by paramedics but died there

Scene: Police were called to Oscar's home, pictured, at 4am where a 30-year-old woman was treated by paramedics but died there

Death: Oscar Pistorius on his Pretoria at his house in Pretoria, where a woman believed to be his girlfriend was found shot dead today

Death: Oscar Pistorius on his Pretoria at his house in Pretoria, where a woman believed to be his girlfriend was found shot dead

Grand: Mr Pistorius lives in a large farm in Pretoria, which is surrounded by high walls and armed guards

Grand: Mr Pistorius lives in a large farm in Pretoria, which is surrounded by high walls and armed guards

Family members of Oscar Pistorius were pictured outside the police station where he was being held

Oscar Pistorius's brother was seen outside the police station in South Africa tonight

Family members of Oscar Pistorius, including his brother (right), were pictured outside the police station where he was being held

Winner: Oscar Pistorius celebrates with his gold medal following the men's 400m win at London 2012

Winner: Oscar Pistorius celebrates with his gold medal following the men's 400m win at London 2012

Icon: The athlete has done more than anyone to promote disabled sport and is one of the world's most famous athletes

Icon: The athlete has done more than anyone to promote disabled sport and is one of the world's most famous athletes

Custody: Clothes hang out of prison cells at the Pretoria Central Prison, where Oscar Pistorius is allegedly being held before his court appearance

Custody: Clothes hang out of prison cells at the Pretoria Central Prison, where Oscar Pistorius is allegedly being held before his court appearance today

VIDEO People react in shock to news of Reeva Steenkamp's death

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VIDEO Pistorius leaves police station after murder charge…

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VIDEO Police detail 'previous domestic incidents' in Pistorius home

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VIDEO FHM Model Reeva was due to star in upcoming Tropika Island of Treasure

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VIDEO Model Reeva Steenkamp speaks at a Malibu event

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ECB could be ready to offer Pietersen new contract

ECB could be ready to offer axed Pietersen new contract… but peace will be fragile at best

|

UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 29 September 2012

England may be ready to offer Kevin Pietersen a new 12-month contract, but any arrangement to bring the player out of exile is likely to be no more than a marriage of convenience.

Reports have suggested that the parties are close to agreement and a deal to resolve the issues surrounding Pietersen's exile from international duty is imminent.

The England Cricket Board insist they
are under no time pressure even though Pietersen becomes a free agent
from midnight on Sunday when his existing contract expires.

Hope: Kevin Pietersen could be offered a new deal by the ECB

Hope: Kevin Pietersen could be offered a new deal by the ECB

Any offer of a new contract would first need to be ratified by the ECB executive committee and they are keen to let coach Andy Flower and his team finish the World T20 before any announcement.

But any peace is likely to be fragile, at best.

Suggestions that the ECB may feel they have no choice but to offer him a contract or risk legal action against them for unfair dismissal have increased the hope inside Pietersen's camp that negotiations may let him be selected for the one-day games on the India tour – or at least the Test tour to New Zealand.

But Flower and England seem some way from being convinced the batsman's new commitment to the cause is not mere pragmatism.

Kenny Dalglish has no excuses left at Liverpool – Ian Ladyman

Dalglish has no excuses left should the poor form carry on

By
Ian Ladyman

PUBLISHED:

21:45 GMT, 12 April 2012

|

UPDATED:

06:44 GMT, 13 April 2012

One of Damien Comolli’s most prized possessions from his time at Anfield may turn out to be the photograph of him holding the Carling Cup that was circulating on the internet on Thursday.

The Frenchman now knows, though, that a club like Liverpool expect a little more than that from an investment in players of more than 100million.

As Liverpool’s peculiar season moves towards its conclusion, it was always likely the club’s American owners would seek to change something in a structure that wasn’t working.

Marriage of convenience: Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli as director of football

Marriage of convenience: Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli as director of football

The Carling Cup success and an FA Cup campaign that reaches a critical point with a semi-final against Everton tomorrow have lent the club’s 2011-12 campaign an air of credibility. But Liverpool’s progress in cup competitions has stopped the roof caving in completely on their season.

Liverpool’s American owners have recognised the need for change. Whether they have chosen the right man as their fall guy only time will tell.

Certainly, both manager Kenny Dalglish and managing director Ian Ayre have had uncomfortable moments this season. Had their respective positions come under intense transatlantic scrutiny – as some felt they would – this summer then they really could not have complained.

Dalglish must take his share of the blame for a wretched league campaign while Ayre allowed the Luis Suarez racism case to drag on embarrassingly.

brave new dawn: Liverpool stated their intent with a January splurge to the tune of 57m

brave new dawn: Liverpool stated their intent with a January splurge to the tune of 57m

But when the knives came out, it was the director of football who took the blame for what Liverpool chairman Tom Werner called the ‘disconnect’ on transfer strategy, while Liverpool also got rid of head of sport science Peter Brukner.

Cynics may say all Werner and Liverpool owner John W Henry have done here is fire bullets at the fringes of the real problem, that they have made changes while shying away from the really tough decision relating to one of their club’s most popular and iconic figures.

After all, how can Werner criticise transfer activity on the one hand and, on the other, deliver such an unequivocal message of support for the man who earlier in the day had admitted the new signings were bought on his recommendation

For now, though, the Americans have made their choice. Just as they did in appointing Dalglish in the first place, they have made what may generously be described as a ‘popular’ choice.

Certainly, Saturday will be a glorious day to be a Merseysider. Liverpool and Everton both have a rich FA Cup heritage and memories of their final clashes at the old Wembley in 1986 and 1989 remain vivid.

Liverpool, though, look set to enter another testing period.

Annual accounts to be published soon are expected to show just how far the club are away from having the funds for the new stadium they need so badly and, with Champions League riches a distant dream at the moment, it will become very clear just how restricted Dalglish will be in the transfer market this summer.

League doesn't lie: Liverpool slumped alarmingly since their League Cup win

League doesn't lie: Liverpool slumped alarmingly since their League Cup win

By all accounts, Dalglish’s relationship with Comolli was cordial. The plain fact is, though, the two men come from different worlds, not to mention different eras.

What was recently described by someone close to the club as a ‘marriage of convenience’ was never likely to last terribly long.

Henry now appears ready to seek a new director of football. Dalglish won’t particularly want one but this is clearly the structure that makes the Americans feel most comfortable.

What is certain is that Liverpool must sign better players this summer. And then they must get better results. Dalglish no longer has any excuses.

Liverpool comment: Kenny Dalglish has no excuses left

Comment: Dalglish has no excuses left should the poor form carry on

By
Ian Ladyman

PUBLISHED:

21:45 GMT, 12 April 2012

|

UPDATED:

21:45 GMT, 12 April 2012

One of Damien Comolli’s most prized possessions from his time at Anfield may turn out to be the photograph of him holding the Carling Cup that was circulating on the internet on Thursday.

The Frenchman now knows, though, that a club like Liverpool expect a little more than that from an investment in players of more than 100million.

As Liverpool’s peculiar season moves towards its conclusion, it was always likely the club’s American owners would seek to change something in a structure that wasn’t working.

Marriage of convenience: Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli as director of football

Marriage of convenience: Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli as director of football

The Carling Cup success and an FA Cup campaign that reaches a critical point with a semi-final against Everton tomorrow have lent the club’s 2011-12 campaign an air of credibility. But Liverpool’s progress in cup competitions has stopped the roof caving in completely on their season.

Liverpool’s American owners have recognised the need for change. Whether they have chosen the right man as their fall guy only time will tell.

Certainly, both manager Kenny Dalglish and managing director Ian Ayre have had uncomfortable moments this season. Had their respective positions come under intense transatlantic scrutiny – as some felt they would – this summer then they really could not have complained.

Dalglish must take his share of the blame for a wretched league campaign while Ayre allowed the Luis Suarez racism case to drag on embarrassingly.

brave new dawn: Liverpool stated their intent with a January splurge to the tune of 57m

brave new dawn: Liverpool stated their intent with a January splurge to the tune of 57m

But when the knives came out, it was the director of football who took the blame for what Liverpool chairman Tom Werner called the ‘disconnect’ on transfer strategy, while Liverpool also got rid of head of sport science Peter Brukner.

Cynics may say all Werner and Liverpool owner John W Henry have done here is fire bullets at the fringes of the real problem, that they have made changes while shying away from the really tough decision relating to one of their club’s most popular and iconic figures.

After all, how can Werner criticise transfer activity on the one hand and, on the other, deliver such an unequivocal message of support for the man who earlier in the day had admitted the new signings were bought on his recommendation

For now, though, the Americans have made their choice. Just as they did in appointing Dalglish in the first place, they have made what may generously be described as a ‘popular’ choice.

Certainly, Saturday will be a glorious day to be a Merseysider. Liverpool and Everton both have a rich FA Cup heritage and memories of their final clashes at the old Wembley in 1986 and 1989 remain vivid.

Liverpool, though, look set to enter another testing period.

Annual accounts to be published soon are expected to show just how far the club are away from having the funds for the new stadium they need so badly and, with Champions League riches a distant dream at the moment, it will become very clear just how restricted Dalglish will be in the transfer market this summer.

League doesn't lie: Liverpool slumped alarmingly since their League Cup win

League doesn't lie: Liverpool slumped alarmingly since their League Cup win

By all accounts, Dalglish’s relationship with Comolli was cordial. The plain fact is, though, the two men come from different worlds, not to mention different eras.

What was recently described by someone close to the club as a ‘marriage of convenience’ was never likely to last terribly long.

Henry now appears ready to seek a new director of football. Dalglish won’t particularly want one but this is clearly the structure that makes the Americans feel most comfortable.

What is certain is that Liverpool must sign better players this summer. And then they must get better results. Dalglish no longer has any excuses.

London 2012 Olympics: No passports for plastic Brits wrestlers

EXCLUSIVE: No passports for plastic Brits: Ukraine-born wrestlers turned down

By
Jonathan McEvoy

Last updated at 10:51 PM on 2nd March 2012

Two 'Plastic Brits' have lost their controversial attempt to represent the Great Britain wrestling team at this summer's Olympics.

Sportsmail can reveal that Ukraine-born Yana Stadnik and Olga Butkevych will not be granted UK passports in time because they do not fulfil the Government's criteria.

Problems with their application came to light after British Wrestling filed the pair's documentation to the Home Office this week.

PLastic Brit: Olga Butkevych at the wrestling test event at ExCel last December

PLastic Brit: Olga Butkevych at the wrestling test event at ExCel last December

Sources say that although Stadnik and Butkevych have lived in the country for five years as required, they will not be granted 'indefinite leave to remain' – a condition of citizenship that demands 'sufficient knowledge of the English language and life in the United Kingdom' – for another year.

With this snag, it is extremely unlikely Home Secretary Theresa May will intervene to expedite their applications before the Olympics start on July 27.

'This marks the end of the road for these two individuals,' said a source close to the process.

The news will be seen as a victory for those who believe Britain should not chase medals by importing athletes with only a technical tie to the country.

It leaves British Wrestling, who appear to have been poorly advised by their lawyers, without the only two females they had planned to name in their Olympic team.

Flag of convenience Yana Stadnik (right) was born in the Ukraine

Flag of convenience Yana Stadnik (right) was born in the Ukraine

Three of their five male wrestlers are also non-British born – two from Ukraine and one from Bulgaria – but they have been granted citizenship.

Stadnik, 25, is a European silver medallist. She married Leon Rattigan, a heavyweight British-born wrestler, in 2010. The wedding was not a public occasion, but witnessed by Malcolm Morley, chairman of British Wrestling, and Yvonne Ball, the association's administrator.

It is believed five Ukrainian wrestlers have married British wrestlers in recent years. However, British Wrestling have denied the marriages are a sham.

Stadnik claimed last year in broken English: 'I have fallen in love four years ago with Leon. Most of the time we spend training together but the small spare time we have together we like going to the park. We have also been to Blackpool, Stonehenge and Liverpool.'

Chief executive Colin Nicholson added: 'These athletes have been in the country for a long period and have contributed to the Great Britain team in an immeasurable way.

Wrestling lift: Stadnik on the day she was married to Leon Rattigan

Wrestling lift: Stadnik on the day she was married to Leon Rattigan

'They have done a lot to motivate and inspire British youngsters.'

Not everyone feels the same, one example being Chloe Spiteri, who was born in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium but denied selection. She has called the selection policy 'unfair'.

Nicholson would not say whether the governing body would now look to pick British-born wrestlers. He also declined to confirm whether Butkevych, a 26-year-old European bronze medallist, had married a British squad member.

The manner of the Eastern Europeans' arrival in Britain is also subject to controversy. Several Ukranians and Bulgarians were brought over by Nicolai Kornyeyev, the Ukrainian who is GB's head coach, on working visas supposedly to act as sparring partners for British wrestlers at their training base in Salford.

Passport granted: Charlotte Bobcats' Byron Mullens goes up for a slam dunk

Passport granted: Charlotte Bobcats' Byron Mullens goes up for a slam dunk

It gave the new arrivals an Olympic chance that may not have materialised in their homelands, where wrestling is a stronger sport. Since then they have benefitted from 3.5million of UK Sport funding.

The British Olympic Association appear unlikely to intervene on behalf of Stadnik and Butkevych by making a special plea to the Home Office.

The Plastic Brits issue continues to stalk the British team across a number of sports. The point was reinforced when basketball centre Byron Mullens confirmed his availability to play for Great Britain after receiving his passport this week.

The 23-year-old Charlotte Bobcats star was born in Columbus, Ohio, but his mother is from Middlesex, making him eligible.

'Yessir,' he said on Twitter, with an accompanying picture of his new passport. 'I will be in London this summer!'

Mullens' availability could give Britain three NBA players in their 12-man squad, along with Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, who has continued to perform well for the Chicago Bulls despite playing with an injured left wrist.

London 2012 Olympics: Michael Johnson on "plastic Brits"

Michael Johnson: If the rules allow Plastic Brits in the Olympics then the rules are wrong

Michael Johnson, the 44-year-old American who holds a unique place in Olympic history as gold medallist over both 200m and 400m at the Atlanta Games of 1996, will add his fearless knowledge of his sport – and his rich tones – to the BBC’s coverage of London 2012 this summer.

But should certain members of the British team excel, then Johnson may well find it uncomfortable if he is expected to join in the acclaim.

For the man who handed back one of his five Olympic gold medals – won as a member of the United States 400m relay team in Sydney – after a team-mate admitted he had used performance-enhancing drugs, has taken a stand against the ‘Plastic Brits’, the athletes who have abandoned the countries of their birth to compete for Britain in London.

Hitting out: Michael Johnson will struggle to rejoice in Plastic Brits medal success

Hitting out: Michael Johnson will struggle to rejoice in Plastic Brits medal success

While Charles van Commenee, the Dutch-born performance director of Team GB’s athletics’ squad, has come under attack for selecting athletes whose affinity to Britain is open to question, Johnson says the blame lies with those competitors he believes exploit the rules – and with the rules themselves.

‘It’s hard to believe it when athletes who have tried to represent their country and couldn’t make that team turn round and claim that all along they wanted to represent Great Britain,’ said Johnson.

‘It’s a hard sell. They have to live with that. My country is the only country that I could represent. If that meant that I could not make an Olympic team, that’s what it meant.’

A Brit cheeky: Yamile Aldama will compete at 2012

A Brit cheeky: Yamile Aldama will compete at 2012

Athletes caught up in the ‘Plastic Brits’ controversy include triple jumper Yamile Aldama, who has already competed for her native Cuba and Sudan – a flag of convenience for the Athens Olympics – and Americans Tiffany Porter, the 100m hurdler, and 400m runner Shana Cox, both of whom have switched their allegiance to Britain.

Porter, born in Michigan, holds British and American passports. She has an English mother and a Nigerian father but represented the United States as a junior.

Cox also has dual citizenship, as both her parents were born in Britain, although she was born in the US.

Triple jumper Julian Reid also wants to compete for Britain rather than his native Jamaica. He has held a British passport since birth although he made his mark in athletics as a university student in Texas.

Similarly , long-jumper Shara Proctor had never set foot in Britain until last year but she has been a British citizen since she was born in the British independent territory of Anguilla, in the Caribbean.

Athletics is not the only sport to come under fire for picking ‘Plastic Brits’. British wrestling’s seven-strong world-class performance squad includes three wrestlers from Ukraine and two from Bulgaria, while the Olympic handball teams will be selected from up to 41 players, of whom 25 were born or raised abroad.

Only Daniela Sposi, who has competed for her native Italy, had to apply for British citizenship, which she gained on the grounds of residency.

Johnson defends Van Commenee’s willingness to take advantage of the rules governing nationality in athletics.

‘Is he operating inside the rules of the sport Yes, he is,’ said Johnson. ‘It’s unfair to say to him, “You are allowed to do this under IAAF rules and other countries do it, but we don’t want you to do it”. And then to say, “But we do want you to bring home as many medals as you can”.

Giving something back: Johnson returned his 400m relay Olympic gold medal after a team-mate admitted he had used performance-enhancing drugs

Giving something back: Johnson returned his 400m relay Olympic gold medal after a team-mate admitted he had used performance-enhancing drugs

‘You can’t fault Van Commenee for the selection of what you call “Plastic Brits”. That’s the pool he has to pick from and he’s going to pick the best athletes.

‘He has to. If not, he’d be discriminating by making a judgment that someone is a better Brit than somebody else. If you have a problem with athletes from other countries who don’t really have any connection with the UK, then target the rules; not Van Commenee.’

FIVE WHO SWITCHED TO BRITAIN

TIFFANY PORTER (100m hurdles)
BORN Michigan, United States

Ran as a junior for the US. Switched to GB in 2010. Holds dual nationality.

JULIAN REID (Triple jump)
BORN Kingston, Jamaica

Represented Jamaica at 2009 world championships, finishing 27th in qualifying round. Holds British passport.

YAMILE ALDAMA (Triple jump)
BORN Havana, Cuba

Second for Cuba at 1999 world championships. Married a Briton in 2001 and moved to UK. Tried for citizenship but delays meant she switched to Sudan for 2004 Olympics. Became British citizen in 2010.

DANIE LA SPOSI (Handball)
BORN Pontinia, Italy

Played for Italy as a junior and senior. Moved to GB for family reasons in 2005. Gained British citizenship in April 2011.

OLGA BUTKEVYCH (Wrestling)
BORN Ukraine

Hoping to gain British citizenship on residency grounds in time for the London Olympics.

Johnson accepts that there are British athletes who have worked for years to win selection for London 2012 and will feel unjustly deprived by the emergence of rivals from foreign shores suddenly waving a British passport.

‘If I was a British athlete striving for selection for these Olympics and someone arrived to take my place, I wouldn’t be happy, no doubt about that,’ he said. ‘I think the rule should be that once you start to compete at senior level for a country, you have to compete for that country and no other.

'The athletes who have the ability, through a parent, or whatever, to choose between countries should have to make a lasting decision at that point.’

Last August, 24-year-old Porter ran the 100m hurdles for Britain in the World Championships in South Korea.

But a month previously she had revealed the depth of her affinity to Britain when she declared on her Twitter account: ‘It’s the 4th of July!!! Wishing I was in the States to celebrate this special day. I’m definitely there in spirit though.’

What a Tweet: Tiffany Porter has done little to her hide her strong American feeling

What a Tweet: Tiffany Porter has done little to her hide her strong American feeling

Johnson’s view of the ‘Plastic Brits’ affair is moulded by his own integrity, shown when he handed back his 2000 relay gold medal after Antonio Pettigrew owned up to doping. Pettigrew killed himself in 2010 and Johnson suspects the shame of what he had done played a part in his suicide.

‘I was angry in the beginning, as for eight years I was a five-times Olympic champion,’ said Johnson. ‘Now I am just sad. Because, deep down, Antonio was still the good guy we always thought him to be — he felt so bad about what he’d done he couldn’t live with it.’

So does Johnson think athletes will be competing on a fair, level playing field in London ‘In society, you have good and bad people, right’ he said.

‘You are never going to have a society where there isn’t crime, and there is never going to be a day when nobody tries to cheat at sports. But, by and large, most people in society are good people; the same thing in sport.’