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in sports, one who engages in athletic competition without material recompense. Upper-class Englishmen in the 19th cent. used the concept to help define their social status, first applying the term to sportsmen who did not need to work with their hands as livelihood, later using it to describe anyone who competed without pay. By the beginning of the 20th cent., leaders of two major sports movements, the American intercollegiate athletic system and the Olympic Games (revived in 1896), had adopted amateurism, claiming it developed competitors who were morally superior to professionals. In a famous incident, Olympic officials stripped decathlete Jim ThorpeThorpe, Jim
(James Francis Thorpe), 1888–1953, American athlete, b. near Prague, Okla. Thorpe was probably the greatest all-round male athlete the United States has ever produced. His mother, a Sac, named him Bright Path.
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 of two gold medals won at the 1912 Games because he had once accepted money to play baseball. Although almost all athletic structures not organized as professional ventures came to embrace amateurism as policy, athletes often subverted the code, forcing officials to constantly revise standards. From the outset, colleges allowed payment of educational expenses to athletes. In 1974, after Communist bloc nations had been subsidizing their athletes for two decades, the Olympics ceded to athletes the right to compensation for loss of salary during training, and shortly thereafter permitted professionals in sports whose governing bodies did not object. By the 1960s top-ranked golf and tennis amateurs had forced major tournaments to allow professional entrants. As evidenced by the return of Thorpe's medals in 1982, amateurism by the 1990s was a concept of diminished importance and one more of technical than moral distinction. The major organizations involved in the supervision of amateur athletics in the United States are the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), responsible for college and university sports, and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), responsible for most other areas of amateur competition.


See J. Lucas, The Modern Olympic Games (1980).

References in classic literature ?
Big Alec's black head and swarthy face popped up within arm's reach; and all unsuspecting and very angry with what he took to be the clumsiness of amateur sailors, he was hauled aboard.
Two to one in half-crowns on the big un," says Rattle, one of the amateurs, a tall fellow, in thunder-and-lightning waistcoat, and puffy, good-natured face.
But the point of Amateur Night, and it is well to note it, is that these amateurs are not really amateurs.
Certain of the best wines (which all had a great character among amateurs in the neighbourhood) had been purchased for his master, who knew them very well, by the butler of our friend John Osborne, Esquire, of Russell Square.
By the aid of cunning architects he had first blasted his harbour into shape, then built his hotels and pleasure-palaces, and then leased them to dependants of his who knew the right sort of people, and who knew that it was as much as their lease was worth to find accommodation for teetotal amateur photographers or wistful wandering Sunday-school treats.
Passepartout, who had been anxiously watching this amateur gymnast, approached him with lively interest, and learned that he had taken flight after an unpleasant domestic scene.
Moliere or Beaumarchais would reply to you, madame, that it was precisely because I was not, that I had cured my patients; for myself, I am content to say to you that I have studied chemistry and the natural sciences somewhat deeply, but still only as an amateur, you understand.
Departure from Green River valley Popo Agie Its course The rivers into which it runs Scenery of the Bluffs the great Tar Spring Volcanic tracts in the Crow country Burning Mountain of Powder River Sulphur springs Hidden fires Colter's Hell Wind River Campbell's party Fitzpatrick and his trappers Captain Stewart, an amateur traveller Nathaniel Wyeth Anecdotes of his expedition to the Far West Disaster of Campbell's party A union of bands The Bad Pass The rapids Departure of Fitzpatrick Embarkation of peltries Wyeth and his bull boat Adventures of Captain Bonneville in the Bighorn Mountains Adventures in the plain Traces of Indians Travelling precautions Dangers of making a smoke The rendezvous
Have you become an amateur of damp quarries and skimming dishes?
That decided the planter to argue no more, and Moti Guj rolled back to his amateur inspection of the clearing.
He is curiously employed at present, for, being an amateur astronomer, he has an excellent telescope, with which he lies upon the roof of his own house and sweeps the moor all day in the hope of catching a glimpse of the escaped convict.
He, therefore, sent in his resignation, and half botanizing, half playing the hunter, he made his way toward the north of the Indian Peninsula, and crossed it from Calcutta to Surat--a mere amateur trip for him.