Originally written on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 8/17/12

BERLIN - NOVEMBER 15: Michael Phelps of USA reacts before the men's 200m individual medley final during day two of the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup on November 15, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The Olympics brand police was active throughout the Games, and they may have a new target: Michael Phelps.

The record medal-winning swimmer appears in an ad campaign for leading fashion designer Louis Vuitton, but the photos could cause problems with the International Olympic Committee.

The photos were not scheduled to be released until after the Games ended, but they began popping up on the web last week. The problem is that the brand-conscious Olympics forbid athletes from promoting any non-Olympics sponsors from July 18 to August 15.

As Fourth-Place Medal points out, the early appearance of the photos could result in severe punishment for Phelps:

Rule 40 states “a competitor or a team may lose the benefit of any ranking obtained in relation to other events at the Olympic Games at which he or it was disqualified or excluded; in such case the medals and diplomas won by him or it shall be returned to the IOC.”

Phelps and Vuitton deny they played a role in the photos being leaked while the Games were ongoing, but there could be some consequences, such as Phelps losing his medals.

Based on how upset the IOC got over some unauthorized condoms and Ryan Lochte’s grill, you can never count them out from doling a harsh punishment. The only good news for Phelps is that Olympics officials seemed to soften toward the end of the Games, and that they probably wouldn’t risk that much negative publicity over something that may have been out of the Olympian’s hands.

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