The lives of many ordinary people are focused on sporting heroes, who act as their proxies. Although they do not know their idol personally, their devotion enables them to feel in some sense that they have themselves reached the hero's extremes of physical and mental endeavour.
At its best, this delusion can have a positive social effect, in that it can make sports fans feel good about themselves, and infect their families and those around them with a positive outlook.
But essentially, many fantastic sporting achievements are just that. They are fantastic in the sense that what the hero has done is indeed great, but not well grounded in the reality of the give and take of human relationships and day to day activity in their lives.
The regrettable truth is that highly successful athletes are often deeply flawed human beings. Their success is frequently accompanied by a range of narcissistic and selfish behaviours that exploit and damage other people who are close to them in their personal and professional lives.
This appears to be the case with Oscar Pistorius, as it was with other sporting greats including Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods and Shane Warne. Australia's badly behaved swimmers from the 2012 London Olympics could well join them in the future.
The paradox is that the activities of successful athletes off the sporting field often include establishing or helping charities, which are dedicated to helping those who are less fortunate. But, whether intentional or not, these activities can work to conceal the truth about the athlete's flawed record in their treatment of fellow human beings, and they also reinforce the damaging myth of his or her super-human greatness.
In seeking to curb the excessive behaviour of sporting heroes, we can call for greater regulation and surveillance. But we can also examine our own behaviour.
We should not discount the role the blindness of our own idolatry can have in fuelling the arrogance and inflated sense of self worth of these people. It's one thing to praise them for the mental rigour that facilitates their single-minded pursuit of particular goals on the sporting field, but another for us to continue to support them when it's clear that they have brought this single-mindedness to their abuse of people off the sporting field.