The Fight Against IOC Rule 40

With the ending of the Olympic games, athletes across the globe have undertaken a new endeavor: addressing the issue over International Olympic Committee Rule 40, which restricts advertising activities of athletes and coaches surrounding any Olympics. Basically, Rule 40 provides that shortly before, during and after the Games, athletes are prohibited from mentioning their sponsors by name or adding additional logos to their apparel when they compete. “The Olympics offer no prize money for making a final, and athletes restrict their Twitter posts during competition to avoid mentioning brand names of their supporters.” One of the possible sanctions for violation of the rule could be “stripping medals won by an offending athlete.” Athletes like Lashinda Demus are up in arms about Rule 40 since they don’t get paid for competing in the Olympics, but the IOC generates substantial revenue. Some people have said that Rule 40 along with other IOC rules have made it difficult for certain Olympic athletes to gain fame and money beyond traditional athletic circuits. Some athletes, like middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds, who is sponsored by Nike, found a way around Rule 40 during the London Games when he Tweeted a photograph of himself standing in front of a large shoe-shaped topiary with Nike’s trademark swoosh on it. Symmonds did not mention Nike by name. What do you think of IOC Rule 40?


  1. I think it is important for the Olympics to maintain an image of athletes that play on behalf of their respective nations as representatives of the various cultures, countries, and people. However, I am not convinced that riding Rule 40 of the IOC would lessen the image of athletes as representatives of their nations. As Chris points out, the IOC gains substantial revenue from the efforts of these olympic athletes, and there seems to be limited reason to prevent athletes from advertising on behalf of their sponsors. Athletes continue to train and prepare for the Olympics, and it is the refined skills of the athletes that attract the attention of the world and that generates income for the IOC. To not allow the athletes to further their financial interests during the Olympics is at least hypocritical.

  2. Rule 40 is an attempt by the IOC to keep the Olympic Games as close to its traditional format as possible but it has not always been successful in these efforts. For example, for many years, the IOC was reluctant to allow professional athletes to compete because the event was geared more towards amateur athletes, but in the 1980s the IOC gave in and allowed professional athletes to compete due to the many years of protest. I hope this does not happen with Rule 40. I understand the arguments the athletes are making about generating revenue and publicity for themselves but I have to side with the IOC. First, the IOC has sponsors that pay ridiculous sums of money to be exclusive sponsors of the Olympics. If you allow athletes to have competing sponsor logos on their uniforms or elsewhere, this diminishes the value of being an Olympic sponsor. Second, the IOC probably turns a profit but that money is also used to fund future Summer and Winter Olympic Games in other countries. It costs billions of dollars to create the infrastructure needed to support the Olympic Games. Lastly, if the IOC did not limit athlete sponsorship, it would open the flood gates to crazy sponsorship ideas. The Games would be covered with millions of sponsorships from all over the world which would be distracting to viewers. I hope the IOC keeps this rule because it helps preserve the true focus of the Olympic Games: global unity.

  3. While I understand the traditional view of the Olympics is the competition between amateur athletes, the instances that sparked the most controversy regarding rule 40 this summer were not driven by the explicit intention to break the rule. Michael Phelps has unintentionally found himself in hot water for alleged violations of the rule. When you delve deeper into the circumstances behind this allegation you will see that Phelps was involved in a print advertisement with Louis Vitton, which was mistakenly printed earlier than expected. Phelps had contracted with Louis Vitton to run the advertisement after the Olympic advertising ban had lifted on August 15th and the photo was leaked online prior to the closing ceremony. Is it fair or correct to punish Phelps, by stripping his medals from the 2012 games, for a mistake of which he had no control? After the 2012 games are over, Phelps has the right to pursue any advertisement deals that should arise and his intention was not for the ad to conflict with the Olympic partners. The only true solution, which is also highly unlikely, would be for the IOC to adhere to the definition of amateurism. All athletes would not be able to accept money for their craft, and therefore would not have sponsorships that will conflict with the IOC’s partners.

  4. While I understand that maintaining rule 40 has its’ benefits, the detriment to the struggling Olympic athlete outweighs the benefits of the rule. Preserving the value of the IOC sponsors by restricting the marketing of athletes during the Olympics allows for beneficial programs such as Olympic Solidarity, and ensures important funding for the committee. However, by denying Olympic athletes an opportunity to market themselves and their sponsors during the largest exhibition of their trade in the world, a true injustice is taking place. The overwhelming majority of Olympic athletes struggle to make ends meet. Sponsors are the most important source of revenue for these athletes. If an athlete cannot market his or her sponsor during the one period of time that they work 3 years and 11 months for, the value of their sponsorship is severely decreased. Sponsors would be much more willing to take on a lesser known athlete if it meant being able to market during the Olympics. Allowing the practices that Rule 40 prohibits would enhance the pool of athletes across the globe by making them more attractive to sponsors and more capable of supporting themselves throughout the time leading up to the Olympic games.

  5. While I see the point that the IOC is trying to preserve the idea of amateurism and protect sponsors of the Olympics games by restricting the Olympians ability to gain sponsorships, I think the rule is completely outdated. Once the Olympics started allowing professional athletes to compete on behalf of their respective countries, the idea of amateurism was thrown by the wayside and the IOC opened a Pandora’s box. Now, this rule has been placed at the center of a movement started by these Olympians, including gold medal winner Sanya Richards-Ross, who stated on her twitter account what many of the athletes feel regarding Rule 40. She tweeted “What is the IOC’s biggest asset? The athletes yet many of my peers have nothing while $6billion generated around games. #WeDemandChange.” (
    The controversy surrounding this issue is similar to the current situation regarding NCAA sports; particularly football and basketball, where some people are of the belief that the athletes are being exploited, while institutions earn huge profits, which is rationalized under the guise of the term “student athlete.” While different arguments can be made in support of keeping student athletes unpaid, such as them receiving a free education and other benefits, the same cannot be said in regards to Olympic Athletes. Yes, the idea of representing your country is what drives athletes to compete in the games, but depriving them of earning a living while the IOC benefits is simply wrong, especially since the main goal behind this is not to preserve amateurism, but rather to protect the sponsors who pay a hefty sum to have their product advertised.
    While I agree to a certain extent, that it is necessary to protect the sponsors of the games, perhaps the rule could be modified to placing the month long ban only on those athletes who have contracted with competing sponsors. This would allow the major sponsors to maintain their exclusivity, while also allowing athletes to benefit from the hard work and exposure they gain while on the international stage of the Olympics. However, it seems unfair to deny the athletes a way to earn money for all the hard work and training they put in leading up to the games. I believe that as long as professionals are allowed to take part in the games, this rule should be discarded. As Dan mentioned, the only true way to justify this would be bringing the games back to its original form, by only allowing amateurs across the board, regardless of the sport, and not allowing any athletes to compete who receive monetary compensation.

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