BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Michael Phelps could be in big trouble over a new ad campaign.
Jessica Kartalija reports the most decorated Olympian ever could possibly lose his gold medals.
Baltimore native Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in the world, poses in only goggles and a Speedo in a Louis Vuitton spread taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz.
In another, he sits across from former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, whose record for most overall medals he broke at this year’s Olympics.
But now Phelps could be stripped of those very medals because the photos surfaced on the Internet earlier this month.
“Somebody, and nobody knows who, leaked photos of a photo shoot with Michael Phelps. The problem with this is Louis Vuitton is not a top Olympic sponsor,” said sports business analyst A.J. Maestas.
According to the rulebook, rule 40 “limits athletes competing in Olympic Games from appearing in advertising during and shortly before the Olympic Games.” Violators could be issued “wide-ranging sanctions.”
The new rule is designed to protect the Games’ top 11 sponsors like Visa, who reportedly pay up to $100 million each for the exclusive rights.
But some athletes, including those without lucrative endorsements, say it prevents them from capitalizing on their brand.
Members of the U.S. track and field team launched a Twitter campaign urging the IOC to change the rule.
Sanya Richards-Ross wrote, “hard-working Olympians leave the games with no financial support while $6 billion [is] earned around these Games.”
“I understand the need for these athletes to tweet their sponsors and to get them recognition, but in the greater picture there is no Olympic Games without these top sponsors, so it’s a catch 22 to be honest,” Maestas said.
The 27-year-old now has a total of 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold.