American stars in protest at 'unjust' ban on their sponsors

The IOC's 'Rule 40' is pricing athletes out of the sport, Team USA members claim

American track and field athletes have launched an extraordinary protest against strict corporate sponsorship rules which forbid competitors from promoting any non-official Olympic brands during the Games.

Dozens of track athletes, including some of Team USA's rising stars, have taken to Twitter to demand a change to "Rule 40" – which bans athletes from appearing for personal sponsors. Some even posted images of their mouths duct-taped with the words Rule 40 written on across them.

The International Olympic Committee says the ban is needed to protect official brands from ambush marketing. Over the past four years "top tier" sponsors, such as Adidas, McDonald's and BMW, have paid more than £609m towards the Games.

But athletes say they are missing out on a vital two weeks where their global exposure is enormous. Although some of Team USA's biggest stars make handsome profits from sponsorship deals in the run up to the Games, many members struggle to find enough cash to compete. US track athletes receive little government funding and are reliant on sponsors or their own cash.

Sanya Richards-Ross, a gold medal winner in Athens and Beijing, is fortunate. She has deals with BMW – an official Olympic sponsor – and clothing giant Nike. But she fears that many of her colleagues are being priced out of athletics by the rules. "I've been very fortunate to do very well around the Olympics, but so many of my peers struggle in this sport," she said yesterday, "And I just think it's unjust.

"People see the Olympics, they see the two weeks when athletes are at their best. It's the most glorious time in their lives, but they don't see the three or four years leading up to the Olympic Games when a lot of my peers are struggling to stay in the sport. The majority of track and field athletes don't have sponsors and don't have support to stay in the sport. A lot have second and third jobs to do this."

Only 2 per cent of Team USA's athletes, she said, had deals with official Olympic sponsors. When US flag-bearer and fencing gold medallist Mariel Zagunis posted a recent tweet thanking official sponsor Procter and Gamble for flying her mother to London for the opening ceremony, she was not censured. But a number of athletes have been told to take photos down from Facebook accounts promoting non-official brands.

The IOC said it will not back down over Rule 40. "A huge number of the 10,500 athletes who are here would understand why we are doing this," said IOC spokesman Mark Jones. "For one month, we ask them not to endorse products not related to the Olympics that don't actually give money back to the movement."

But other athletes have supported the Team USA protests. Ed Moses, Olympic hurdles champion in 1976 and 1984, said his earning power was much higher in his heyday than that of any American track and field athlete today. "Track and field has fallen behind a lot of the professional sports," he said.

Suggested Topics
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower