The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

February 18, 2014

Olympians tiptoe around sponsorship ban

(Continued)

Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg told Norwegian media the ad could lead to "consequences," including Bjoergen being stripped of the gold. Ludo pulled the image immediately and the issue died down.

The IOC's top global sponsors pay up to $100 million each for exclusive four-year deals. Adams said the IOC is redistributing $5 billion in commercial revenues over the current four-year cycle to national Olympic bodies, international federations and organizing committees.

The ban doesn't apply to Olympic partners. BP, for example, is a sponsor of the U.S. team, so it can continue to air a commercial featuring Wagner, the skater, during the games.

"I haven't felt like our hands are tied at all because, luckily for her, her main sponsors are Olympic sponsors," said Wagner's agent, David Baden. "That's a luxury for us that they can still advertise Ashley during the games."

The rule has caused controversy at the Summer Olympics, too. Dozens of athletes waged a Twitter campaign at the 2012 London Games, using the hashtags "WeDemandChange2012" and "Rule40."

"After London, we maintained our position," Felli said. "Maybe there are some new arguments. Maybe we can see it differently after these games. But the rule is there to protect the athletes. It's not just for a few. It's for all of them."

Olympians tread carefully. When a reporter asked U.S. snowboarder Faye Gulini to name her sponsors, she replied: "Am I allowed to say? I don't really think I am."

So she asked a team official: "I'm not allowed to talk about sponsors, right?"

"Not under Rule 40. Not specific sponsors," came the response.

The Australian wing of Bolle felt it necessary to blur out the faces of winter Olympians on its web site. "It's disappointing not to be able to send messages of support for our athletes and teams," spokeswoman Fiona Marty said. "But whilst Rule 40 exists, then we will abide by these restrictions to protect our athletes from repercussions.'

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