The mysterious release of a photo of Michael Phelps in a bathtub, shot for a Louis Vuitton ad campaign, threatens to cause a splash of a different kind. Everyone involved in the creating the photo denies having released it early, perhaps because it may put Phelps in hot water with the International Olympic Committee.
A new IOC regulation, called Rule 40, prohibits athletes from appearing in ads for non-Olympic sponsors from July 18 to Aug. 15. According to the IOC’s 19 page explainer, Rule 40 is designed to prevent ambush marketing, defined as non-Olympic sponsors trying to associate themselves with the Olympic brand.
Yet two photos of the Olympic swimmer, shot by the photographer Annie Leibovitz, began circulating during the time period in which athletes are prohibited from appearing in advertisements. A website in
The second photo shows Phelps in a three-piece suit sitting on a couch next to Larisa Latynina of
A quick Google search shows the photos went viral and appeared on dozens if not hundreds of websites on Aug. 13 and 14.
An agent for Leibovitz confirmed to
The release of these photos before Aug. 16 raises the thorny question of whether the world’s most decorated athlete is in violation of rule with sanctions that could include fines and the stripping of medals.
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