IOC Keeping Limits on Athlete Sponsorship

(ATR) Thomas Bach tells athletes that they should take up their cause with NOCs or sport federations.

(ATR) The IOC is not interested in loosening its tight restrictions preventing athletes from using their likenesses for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.

Instead, IOC President Thomas Bach told athletes at the International Athletes Forum in Lausanne that they should work with their individual National Olympic Committee or sport federation if they want to change the current limitations under Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter.

"There is no "one size fits all" solution," Bach told the gathered athletes during a question and answer session on Sunday, adding that the IOC thinks the best way to handle the situation is to fund national Olympic bodies which are "in the best position to decide what they need to do for their athletes".

Rule 40 states that "except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games."

Bach’s comments follow a ruling by a German regulatory office in February that eased some of the Rule 40 restrictions on athletes in that country.

The German Federal Cartel Office ruled that the IOC and German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) were subject to local laws, a clear win for German athletes.

The ruling also allowed athletes greater latitude in using media during the Olympics. Posts will no longer require DOSB approval and athletes can use words such as medal, gold, silver, bronze, winter games and summer games in their posts.

Athletes have long tried to loosen Rule 40, arguing it deprives them of their biggest shot at capitalizing on the platform the Olympics provide. The IOC has countered that Rule 40 protects the exclusivity of the Olympics and its sponsors, a key part of driving up commercial revenues that are an important part of funding games organizers, NOCs, and IFs.

The IOC argues "it helps to offer athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) an equal opportunity to train and qualify for the Olympic Games. Through this model, the Olympic Games can also continue to be a platform for a wide range of sports."

Global Athlete, a new advocacy group for athletes who are in Olympic or Paralympic sports, believes the IOC should not leave it to the athletes to find an answer on their own.

"We welcome the fact that the IOC is now starting to raise this issue, which has long been on the minds of the overwhelming majority of Olympic athletes. This is a first step to recognizing the growing mood among the athlete community to have their marketing and commercial rights liberated at an Olympic Games," said Global Athlete Director General Rob Koehler in a statement to Around the Rings.

"Global Athlete would encourage the IOC to build on this momentum by actively speaking to the National Olympic Committees and, alongside athletes, to find solutions that would unlock their marketing potential at a time when they are crying out for change. Meaningfully engaging athletes can only grow and benefit the Olympic brand."

Global Athlete, as an independent organization, was not invited to the International Athletes Forum this past weekend.

Written by Gerard Farek, with reporting from Brian Pinelli in Lausanne.

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