Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Was he the greatest athlete of all time ???

In 1913, strict rules regarding amateurism were in force for athletes participating in the Olympics. Athletes who received money prizes for competitions, were sports teachers or who had previously competed against professionals were not considered amateurs, and were not allowed to partake in the Olympics.

In late January 1913, U.S. newspapers published stories that made claims Thorpe had played professional baseball. It is not entirely certain which newspaper first brought the story; the earliest article found is from the Providence Times, but the Worcester Telegram is usually mentioned as the first. Thorpe had indeed played professional baseball in the Eastern Carolina League for Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1909 and 1910, and had received a small amount of money for playing.

The AAU decided to retroactively withdraw Thorpe's amateur status, and requested the IOC to do the same. Later that year, the IOC unanimously decided to strip Jim Thorpe of his Olympic titles, medals and awards, and declared him a professional.

Thorpe received great acclaim from the press. In 1950, an Associated Press poll among sportswriters voted Thorpe the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century, while another poll elected him as the best football player over the same period. By the end of the century, memories of Thorpe had faded a little, but he still was listed near the top of many "athlete of the century" lists.

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