How the Decathlon Got Stuck in the Mud

Drugs, fan demand for broken records to blame of 10-discipline event

By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 21, 2008 8:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – Once upon a time, the decathlon was it: The king of Sweden called 1912 Olympic champ Jim Thorpe “the world’s greatest athlete, and gold medalists such as Bruce Jenner became superstars. So what happened? Drugs, Robert Weintraub writes in Slate: Track events occupy the same space as the Tour de France, "forever sullied, carrying a ‘yes, but’ after every world record and gold medal.”

There’s more: The decathlon’s grueling, drawn-out schedule doesn’t make for great TV. But US decathlete Bryan Clay looks like he might become a star simply because he’s better than the rest of his track team. “Sure, that's a backhanded way to gain recognition as the world's greatest athlete,” Weintraub writes, “but at this point the decathlon will take anything it can get.”

United States' Bryan Clay makes an attempt in the long jump of the men's decathlon today at the Beijing Olympics.
United States' Bryan Clay makes an attempt in the long jump of the men's decathlon today at the Beijing Olympics.   (AP Photo)
United States' Bryan Clay makes an attempt in the shot put of the men's decathlon during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008.
United States' Bryan Clay makes an attempt in the shot put of the men's decathlon during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Iran's Hadi Sepehrzad reacts after an attempt in the shot put of the men's decathlon during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008.
Iran's Hadi Sepehrzad reacts after an attempt in the shot put of the men's decathlon during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Czech Republic's Roman Sebrle makes an attempt in the long jump of the men's decathlon at the Beijing Olympics today.
Czech Republic's Roman Sebrle makes an attempt in the long jump of the men's decathlon at the Beijing Olympics today.   (AP Photo)
United States' Bryan Clay makes an attempt in the high jump of the men's decathlon during the  Beijing 2008 Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008.
United States' Bryan Clay makes an attempt in the high jump of the men's decathlon during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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Quick, can you name the American who won silver in Athens and is favored to win gold in Beijing? Thought not. His name is Bryan Clay, and he's pretty far down the list of athletes NBC wants you to care about. - Robert Weintraub, Slate

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