Lausanne, Switzerland — Jim Thorpe has been reinstated as the sole winner of the 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon in Stockholm – nearly 110 years after being stripped of those gold medals for violations of strict amateurism rules of the time.
The International Olympic Committee planned to announce the change Friday on the 110th anniversary of Thorpe winning the decathlon and later being proclaimed by King Gustav V of Sweden as “the greatest athlete in the world.”
Thorpe, a Native American, returned to a ticker-tape parade in New York, but months later it was discovered he had been paid to play minor league baseball over two summers, an infringement of the Olympic amateurism rules. He was stripped of his gold medals in what was described as the first major international sports scandal.
Thorpe to some remains the greatest all-around athlete ever. He was voted as the Associated Press’ Athlete of the Half Century in a poll in 1950.
In 1982 – 29 years after Thorpe’s death – the IOC gave duplicate gold medals to his family but his Olympic records were not reinstated, nor was his status as the sole gold medalist of the two events.
Two years ago, a Bright Path Strong petition advocated declaring Thorpe the outright winner of the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912. The IOC had listed him as a co-champion in the official record book.
“We welcome the fact that, thanks to the great engagement of Bright Path Strong, a solution could be found,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement as part of Friday’s announcement. “This is a most exceptional and unique situation, which has been addressed by an extraordinary gesture of fair play from the National Olympic Committees concerned.”
World Athletics, the governing body of track and field, has also agreed to amend its records, the IOC said.
Thorpe tripled the score of his nearest competitor in the pentathlon and had 688 more points than the second-place finisher in the decathlon.
During the closing ceremony, King Gustav V told Thorpe: “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.”