Originally posted on The Daily Rival  |  Last updated 8/19/12

The International Olympic Committee, because it’s probably made up of people who were picked last on the schoolyard by the more-athletic popular kids, reportedly could potentially strip Michael Phelps of some of his medals earned in London after photos from a Louis Vuitton ad campaign leaked during the Olympics, breaking IOC rules and regulations.

Because of the IOC’s controversial Rule 40, designed to embargo “ambush marketing,” athletes are not allowed to hawk non-Olympic sponsors from July 18-Aug. 15. The provision effectively bars athletes from fulfilling any endorsement responsibilities to, say, Nike or Big Bob’s Beepers, whether through shoutouts in interviews, social media or, yes, even shameless temporary tattoos during the course of the Games. It’s also the same reason why Yohan Blake got in trouble for wearing a $500,000 watch during some of his races in London. Like a mother bear who protects her cubs, the IOC has to protect the people who write its checks.

Enter Phelps. That hilarious image above is one of the leaked advertisements. It features Phelps just chilling in a bathtub with a Speedo on (like we all do) in a pretty ironic metaphor for his current situation. You could see the other leaked ad here. Nothing about the photos immediately indicates that they’re promos for Louis Vuitton. There’s no blaring, overlaying copy encouraging you to buy ridiculously priced LV swag. But there are noticeably a couple strategically placed LV bags in both shots. If the intent wasn’t to promote Louis Vuitton, then the above photo could easily pass as just a photo shoot for Speedo Enthusiasts Monthly or GQ.

The campaign was intended to launch last week after the Games were done. But, as leaks tend to do, the whole wide world found out about them before it was supposed to, during the Olympics. It doesn’t matter that they were leaked. Phelps could still be in some trouble here.

Phelps’ agent is certain that his client won’t have to surrender any medals. But that this was even discussed as a possibility points to the stupidity of this whole thing. Because the IOC is a silly, stiff, bureaucratic organization that nobody likes.

Usually people are stripped of Olympic medals for illegally trying to gain an advantage, like Ben Johnson for doping, or John Candy for hiding weights in a bobsled. Now, Phelps, even if it’s in the slightest possibility, could lose medals because he took a couple cheesy, provocative photos with a handbag? Sounds totally the same in the same boat as cheating!

At the heart of it, the issue here isn’t really about medals being repossessed. This is a case of the IOC watching out for its own sponsors. Those billion-dollar corporations funneling millions and millions of dollars into the IOC’s pockets. It’s OK for the IOC to monetize a spectacle entirely generated by athletes such as Phelps. But heaven have mercy if Phelps tried to do the same for his own accomplishments on the Olympic stage — the time when his popularity peaks. The NCAA, the clubhouse leader for marketplace hypocrisy, is thoroughly impressed.

But, hey, maybe things could shake out differently for Phelps if he forked over some money under the table or perpetuated human rights violations against an entire people. Just so long as those people aren’t Olympic sponsors.

Photo via @pw_agency

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