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IOC declares Thorpe sole gold medallist in 1912 decathlon and pentathlon

American athlete Jim Thorpe is to be given sole credit for his 1912 gold medals, more than a century after he was stripped of them, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Friday.

The IOC said it “will henceforth display the name of Jim Thorpe as the sole gold medallist in pentathlon and decathlon at the Olympic Games Stockholm 1912. This change comes on the very day of the 110th anniversary of Thorpe’s medal in decathlon.”

Thorpe was stripped of the medals in 1913 after American newspapers reported that he had previously played both American football and baseball professionally.

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), the predecessor of the United States Olympic Committee, decided that Thorpe, a native American and member of the Sac and Fox nation, had broken the rules on amateurism.

Swede Hugo K. Wieslander was declared decathlon champion and Norwegian Ferdinand Bie the pentathlon gold medallist.

In 1983, 30 years after Thorpe’s death, the IOC presented replica gold medals to his family after reinstating him as an amateur and accepting that, under their rules, disqualification should have been within 30 days.  

A lobby group, Bright Path Strong, named after Thorpe, whose Native American name Wa-Tho-Huk means Bright Path, sought a full reversal. 

They contacted the Swedish and Norwegian Olympic associations, who both responded that Thorpe should be declared sole gold medallist. 

Wieslander’s surviving family members also confirmed that the Swede “had never accepted the Olympic gold medal allocated to him, and had always been of the opinion that Thorpe was the sole legitimate Olympic gold medallist,” said the IOC statement.

The IOC said that while “Thorpe’s name will now be displayed as the sole gold medallist in pentathlon and decathlon” with silvers going to Bie and Wieslander, the other medals awarded would not be changed.

American James Donahue and Canadian Frank Lukeman will keep the silver and bronze medals in pentathlon that they were awarded in 1913. Swedes Charles Lomberg  and Gosta Holmer will keep the decathlon silver and bronze.

King Gustav V presented Thorpe with his medals and told him: “Sir, you are the world’s greatest athlete.”  

Thorpe played in the National Football League until he was 41, was the first president of its predecessor league, the American Professional Football Association, and is in the professional football Hall of Fame. 

He played Major League Baseball and was also part of a barnstorming basketball team. 

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