Originally in Greece the definition of the word athlete meant prize fighter or prize contender. That changed around the 15th century giving it an extraordinarily fluid definition meaning that if you competed in a contest and you were physically agile; (read that as a bowler, golfer, archer, or even a NASCAR driver), Then you are an athlete. If you are involved in a sport that involved stamina and strength as well as agility and speed; (swimming, cycling, tennis, soccer), then you are an athlete as well.
Tiger Woods was named Associated Press: Athlete of the Decade!
The argument that Tiger Woods has won more PGA golf tournaments this decade then the top-four pro golfers combined carries no weight with me and if you look at the "athletes" that compete at the professional level in golf, they all look like Costco and WallMart shoppers!
As far as I am concerned, only two athletes were truly qualified to be considered and both were overlooked: Michael Phelps and Lance Armstrong!
Lance Armstrong won six Tour de France races in just this decade alone; (7-tours all together), and even placed third this year while injured after coming out of retirement.
Michale Phelps on the other hand has been to the Olympic Games three-times this decade taking home 14-gold medals and "change." His 21-gold medal haul at the FINA World Championships are also quite extraordinary. His most notable performance in 2007 produced seven World records and one Olympic record.
Ultimately it was economic interests alone both in victory and scandal that determined this Tiger Woods selection.
Manufactured adulation followed by a Crucifixion followed by redemption: That is what it takes if you want to be a media star. Accomplishments need not apply.