Michael Phelps may lose his recently won Olympic medals due to his provocative photo shoot with fashion monarch Louis Vuitton.
The photos were captured by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. They were leaked on the internet late last week, violating the International Olympic Committee's controversial Rule 40 which states athletes can't promote any non-Olympic sponsors from July 18 to Aug.15.
Penalties for not following the rule range from fines to a stripping of medals won.
The campaign was set to begin on Aug. 16 in order to comply with the IOC's campaign against ambush marketing. Someone jumped the gun and the photos appeared on a wide variety of websites starting on the second Tuesday of the Olympics.
Louis Vuitton denies releasing the photographs, as does Phelps' camp.
Rule 40 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." In other words, Phelps could theoretically be stripped of his medals from London.
The chances of Phelps losing his medals because of the leaking of the photos are very slim.
One of the leaded ad photos was with former Russian Gymnast Larisa Latynina. Phelps broke her record for the most Olympic medals won, in the London games.