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Can Olympic Athletes Tattoo an Ad on Their Shoulders?

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

There was a time when Olympic competition meant that the best amateur athletes would compete against each other.

Amateur athletes would compete solely for the love of the game and were not marred by things like money (money being what distinguishes amateurs from professionals).

But this illusion that Olympic athletes were unpaid amateurs has been wiped away for the most part ever since the 1992 Dream Team. Now Olympic advertising is heavy and accepted -- so long as you make money for an Olympic sponsor and not your own. But this policy is now being pushed with athletes seeking to sell their own skin with tattoo advertising.

Nick Symmonds is not a household name. He competes in an unglamorous competition (the 800-meter run) in a sport that people only watch once every four years (track and field). Symmonds probably has trained all his life to compete in the Olympics, but his earning potential is far from what other athletes like Kevin Durant or Michael Phelps can make.

So Symmonds decided to take matters into his own hands (or shoulders), and has auctioned off his body parts for tattoo advertising, reports USA TODAY. For $11,000, a small time Milwaukee ad firm bought the rights to Symmonds' shoulder and agreed to place a temporary tattoo on Symmonds to advertise for the company.

While this may seem like wise business for the track and field athlete, this selling of body parts goes directly against Olympic policy. While athletes are allowed to use social media and Twitter, athletes will be forbidden from using these tools for commercial and advertising purposes. Additionally, during the Olympic games, athletes are forbidden from appearing in ads that do not involve official Olympic advertisers, reports USA TODAY. It's probably safe to assume that the Milwaukee ad firm is not an Olympic sponsor.

The argument may be couched as who owns Nick Symmonds' body. This likely won't be an argument as Symmonds clearly owns the right to put tattoo advertising on his body. However, if Symmonds wants to participate in a voluntary event (no one is forcing him to go to the Olympics), he may have to succumb to the Olympic advertising rules.

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