Olympic runner Nick Symmonds to protest at U.S. track trials

Outspoken American runner Nick Symmonds has withdrawn from his country's track and field trials, but is planning a protest to bring attention to what he thinks are unfair sponsorship rules.

Symmonds' movement #OwnYourSkin will ask supporters to wear black tape

Nick Symmonds won't run but he will be in Eugene, Ore. to protest what he feels are unfair sponsorship restrictions on Olympic athletes. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Nick Symmonds won't be competing at the upcoming U.S. track and field trials, but the runner-with-a-cause will be making his presence felt.

Symmonds, a two-time Olympian and a world championship silver medallist, is the leader of the #OwnYourSkin movement, which advocates for less restrictive sponsorship rules for Olympic athletes. Though an ankle injury will prevent him from qualifying for the Rio Olympics in the 800 metres, the 32-year-old will be on site in Eugene, Ore., to push for his cause.

Symmonds will be asking athletes and supporters to wear black tape on their shoulders at the trials, which run July 1-10. He has repeatedly run afoul of sponsorship rules by tattooing sponsors onto his arms.

Symmonds, a two-time Olympian, is well-known for using his body to further his cause. He has auctioned off a part of his arm twice and is seen here promoting Run Gum, a product he co-founded. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)

In a story this week, Symmonds called out USA Track & Field (USATF), the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for "...stealing the money available and paying the athletes next to nothing for the trials and absolutely nothing from the Games."

Part of the contention surrounds the IOC's Rule 40, which prohibits an Olympian's sponsor from using them in marketing campaigns during the month-long Games window. The rule is meant to protect the exclusivity of sponsors who have direct deals with the IOC, such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's and VISA.

A revision in 2015 does make allowances for non-Olympic sponsors, so long as they don't use Olympic trademarks and are in market months before an Olympics begins.

The late change meant Canadian athletes, who mostly benefit from deals with Olympic sponsors, were largely unable to capitalize and add contracts with non-Olympic sponsors.

Peter Cosentino, who runs sports marketing company DEC Sports and Entertainment, believes more opportunities will arise before the next Olympics, in PyeongChang in 2018. But acknowledges there won't be many this time around.

"There will be some early adopters that take advantage of it that have planned far enough out [of Rio 2016] and taken that [Rule 40 change] into consideration, but there won't be a ton," Cosentino said.

The movement is louder in the U.S.

In the U.S., athletes such as Symmonds are more vocal about Rule 40 restrictions.

In both 2012 and earlier this year, Symmonds auctioned off a space on his arm in protest.

He boycotted last summer's world championships because of the restrictions, which he protests regularly on his Twitter feed.

The IOC and national federations claim the existing system Olympic sponsorship is meant to increase the pool of money available within each country, yet Symmonds says it does not benefit the athletes who actually take part in the Olympic Games.


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