Michael Phelps speaks at a news conference following his final competitive race, at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Photo : Reuters)
Leaked photos of Michael Phelps from a Louis Vuitton ad campaign may endanger the decorated Olympian's medals due a provision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that bans players from promoting non-official sponsors from July 18 to August 15, 2012.
Phelps, 27, faces possible sanctions due to Rule 40, the provision that could theoretically strip the retired Olympian of medals. The photos, which appeared online on August 13th, show Phelps sitting on a couch speaking to gymnast Soviet Larisa Latynina, and display the swimmer in a bathtub. Other notable names featured in the campaign are Sean Connery, Bono, and Mikhail Gorbachev.
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According to the Associated Press, Phelps' agent Peter Carlisle expressed that the release of the photographs was not authorized by the athlete, and thereby is not subject to sanctions from the IOC. Carlisle put forward that there have been a number of similar cases in the past where sanctions were not imposed.
The campaign official began on August 16th, the day after the sponsorship ban was lifted.. Louis Vuitton employed photographer Annie Leibovitz for the now controversial shoot.
Phelps achieved a total of 18 golds, 2 silvers, and 2 bronzes during his Olympic career. During the 2012 London Olympics, the athlete won 4 golds and 2 silvers.
In a phone interview with the Huffington Post, Carlisle reassured the news outlet unauthorized photos are uncovered "constantly".
The agent redirected the press attention by commending Phelps' inclusion in the ad campaign, noting that only "iconic" figures were included, arguing that the swimmer has "transcended" his sport and become a part of our culture.