As unlikely as it seems in Phelps' moment of Olympic triumph, there may a potential case against him for violating Olympic advertising bans. Olympic Committee Rule 40 forbade participants from promoting non-Olympic products while the London games were ongoing between July 18 and August 15.
How Did He Break The Rules?
Somehow, by mistake or intentionally leaked, a week before the Olympics ended, photos from an upcoming Louis Vuitton print ad appeared in the press showing swimsuit-clad Phelps in a bathtub. Another released photo for the ad had Phelps posing with 1960s Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina. She had won the most Olympic gold medals until Phelps broke her record in London. He is shown wearing a suit and tie, and as with the bathtub photo, there's a Louis Vuitton bag nearby in the photo.
Everything Is A Promotion
I watched many of the London Olympics events, and as is usual in today's TV, I noted there were frequent commercial interruptions, many created with an Olympic theme. For example, both the opening and closing ceremonies heavily promoted English history, products, literature, sports, entertainment, all intended to boost the nation's economic and tourist industries. They were very entertaining, but obviously loaded with heavy commercial intent that had little to do with the Olympics.
Professional Olympic Athletes
In the 1912 Olympics, American Jim Thorpe won two gold medals. After officials determined he had played semi-pro baseball, he was stripped of his honors. In 1983, long after his death, the International Olympic Committee restored his medals. In the 1988 Olympic games, for the first time in Olympics history since they began in 1896, professional athletes were permitted to participate in their own sports events, while amateurs were held to the strict non-commercial rules.
What will happen?
Phelps' agent, Peter Carlisle, has said nothing will happen. His position is the photos were released without Phelps' authorization or approval, so there is no violation. The images were taken be celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz for an advertising campaign that was supposed to start after the Olympic games ended, yet the photos were leaked early. The issue will be whether merely posing and accepting the contract that related to the photos is a violation of the IOC rule, or whether it only applies to the public release of advertising.
Olympic and sports fan Freddy Sherman grew up in Philadelphia and went to school with two Olympic medal winners, Kim Gallagher and David Wharton. Watching their skill and determination inspired him. You can follow Freddy on Twitter: @thefredsherman.
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