IOC restores Thorpe's medals 69 years later

Updated: October 17, 2005, 4:31 PM ET
By Larry Schwartz | Special to

Oct. 13, 1982

Sixty-nine years after stripping Jim Thorpe of his two Olympics gold medals, the International Olympic Committee agrees to restore them to Thorpe posthumously. IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch will present the medals to Thorpe's children in a ceremony in January.

Thorpe, a Native American, won the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Games in Stockholm and was proclaimed the "world's greatest athlete" by King Gustav V of Sweden. But the following January the medals were taken away when it was learned that Thorpe had earned $25 a week playing minor league baseball in North Carolina in 1909 and 1910.

Thorpe died in 1953. For years, his family petitioned to have the medals returned. However, Avery Brundage, the IOC president from 1952-72, was steadfast in blocking the move. His refusal was seen by some as a racist act and by others as payback for being badly beaten by Thorpe in the 1912 decathlon and pentathlon.

Last weekend, Bill Simon, the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, went before the IOC and pled Thorpe's case again. This time, with Brundage deceased, the IOC heeded the request.