Michael Phelps bowed out of the London 2012 Games as the world’s most highly awarded Olympian, with 22 medals to his name—18 of them gold. But when someone leaked images from the swimmer’s new campaign for Louis Vuitton during the Olympics, observers suggested that some of Phelps could be stripped of some of his medals.
Phelps, who joins Angelina Jolie, Bono and Keith Richards in Vuitton’s Core Values campaign, shot by Annie Leibovitz, was thought to be at risk for infringing the International Olympic Committee’s Rule 40. The rule prohibits ‘athletes competing in the Olympic games from appearing in advertising during and shortly before the Olympic games,’ and carries ‘wide-ranging sanctions’, extending to the confiscation of medals.
But there’s really no reason to think that Phelps could suffer the consequences of the image leak, long-time agent Peter Carlisle said.
‘He didn't violate Rule 40, it's as simple as that,’ Carlisle told the Associated Press. ‘All that matters is whether the athlete permitted that use. That's all he can control. In this case, Michael did not authorize that use. The images hadn't even been reviewed, much less approved. It's as simple as that. An athlete can't control unauthorized uses any more than you can guarantee someone isn't going to break into your house.’
Louis Vuitton quickly distanced itself from the campaign, claiming the main image—Phelps lounging in a bathtub in just goggles and a Speedo, a monogrammed carryall open on the floor—was ‘stolen’.
‘The visual you are referring to is not a Louis Vuitton visual, and we are therefore not able to comment on this,’ a representative responded when we requested a high-res version of the image.
Even so: ‘Whether it was on purpose or on accident, this is one of the best things that could have happened to Louis Vuitton,’ sports analyst A.J. Maestas told CBS, ‘because people will now associate Louis Vuitton with Michael Phelps.’