News and Commentary

Legendary Olympian’s Gold Medal Status Restored After Century-Old Scandal
American multi-sport athlete and Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe (1888 - 1953), here of the New York Giants baseball team, waits for a pitch during a game at the Polo Grounds, New York, New York, 1913. (Photo by Bain News Service/Interim Archives/Getty Images)
Bain News Service/Interim Archives/Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reinstated Jim Thorpe, one of the greatest athletes in history, as the sole winner of the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Olympic games.

The IOC is expected to announce Thorpe’s reinstatement on Friday. The Olympic body has already updated its website to reflect Thorpe as the winner of his events at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, according to Indian Country Today, the first outlet to report the news. Thorpe’s recognition as the sole winner of the decathlon and pentathlon caps off a decades long push led by Bright Path Strong, a group named after Thorpe’s indigenous name. Thorpe was a member of Oklahoma’s Sac and Fox Nation.

“This is a most exceptional and unique situation,” IOC President Thomas Bach told The New York Times. “It is addressed by an extraordinary gesture of fair play from the concerned National Olympic Committees.”

Thorpe dominated his events at the 1912 Olympic games, but his medals were revoked after officials discovered that he had made $25 a week playing minor league baseball for a short stint before competing in the Olympics. Officials took away Thorpe’s medals, adhering to rules on Olympic amateurism that barred professional athletes from competing in the Olympic games. The prohibition was lifted decades later.

In 1913, Thorpe’s gold medals were awarded to Sweden’s Hugo Wieslander for the decathlon and Norway’s Ferdinand Bie in the pentathlon. The IOC said it consulted with Wieslander’s surviving family and the Norway Olympic committee before reinstating Thorpe as the sole winner of those events, according to the NYT.

After the scandal and with his amateur status revoked, Thorpe became a Major League Baseball player, playing for the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds, and Boston Braves over the years 1913 to 1919. In 1920, he shifted his athletic career to playing professional football instead, which he did until he turned 41. In 1950, an Associated Press poll of sports writers and broadcasters ranked Thorpe as the best athlete of the first half of the 20th Century as well as the best football player.

Thorpe’s family was returned replicas of his medals in 1982 with an understanding that Thorpe’s punishment was unjust. Thorpe’s allies continued to push for his official recognition as the sole winner of his events, however.

“That’s terrific. We have been working with the IOC for almost two years now and asking them to reinstate Jim’s winnings for his decathlon and pentathlon events,” Nedra Darling, executive producer of Jim Thorpe’s biopic, told Indian Country Today.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Legendary Olympian’s Gold Medal Status Restored After Century-Old Scandal