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
United States' Bryan Clay makes an attempt in the long jump of the men's decathlon today at the Beijing Olympics.   (AP Photo)
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(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.”