You don’t mess with the IOC and their tedious rules, even if you are the most decorated Olympian in the history of the games. That’s the lesson Michael Phelps is learning as he is in a vat of boiling problems concerning a photo shoot he did for French luxury line Louis Vuitton.
Phelps was hired for a promotional photo shoot for an upcoming campaign for Louis Vuitton, one that was set to begin on August 16th. But photos of Phelps shoot were leaked and surfaced on the internet late last week, which unfortunately for Phelps, directly violates the IOC’s ‘Rule 40‘ which states no Olympic athlete may promote a non-Olympic sponsored product between the dates of July 18 and August 15.
The rules explicitly 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.”
Don’t get too nervous though. Phelps is highly unlikely to lose any medals or victories over this debacle — because at the moment that’s all it is: an unfortunate and uncontrollable mistake.
In order for Phelps to lose his medals, the IOC will have to prove that there was a conspiracy by either Phelps, Louis Vuitton or both parties to release the photos before they were allowed to. Both Phelps and the fashion design company deny they were the ones who leaked the photos that surfaced last week. And rightfully so for Phelps, who has a lot at stake over something as simple as being photographed in a bathtub or in a flashy suit with a bag.
You can understand why Louis Vuitton would leak the photos. Everyone from fashion pundits to sports sites like us are circulating their name, giving their upcoming line free promotion. But look at this from their point of view: if it gets out that they leaked these photos, high profile celebrities will think more than twice about helping them out.
But conspiracy theorists have what seems like good ground to stand on. One of the photos leaked is of Phelps posing alongside former Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina. Phelps broke Latynina’s Olympic medal record during the London Games, but everyone and their grandma knew he was in a position to do this. Louis Vuitton would have been stupid to not take the photos beforehand, even if Phelps didn’t break the record.
This isn’t the first time Phelps is on the short end of the stick when it comes to photos getting leaked. But if he didn’t lose any medals over this leaked photo that he clearly didn’t put out himself, then the IOC will be hard pressed to take medals away from their brightest star for posing with a purse.