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Athletes face trying sponsorship hurdle

LONDON – Sanya Richards-Ross is an appealing, gregarious runner.

She is about to be one of two other things, too: a terrific multi-tasker or a distracted would-be champion.

The women’s 400-meter final is Saturday. Much to her delight, her husband will be on hand.

That’s notable because Aaron Ross, cornerback, would ordinarily be popping pads at Jacksonville Jaguars camp. But the Jags have let him take three days off to be with his wife in London.

If the Olympics can budge the NFL off its chronometer, it must be a powerful worldwide force.

“It’s unprecedented,” Richards-Ross said Monday. “I’m so excited. He’s never had a chance to watch me run in a major competition before.”

That is not the problem.

The problem might be that Richards has also been concentrating on the 40.

That is, Rule 40, the International Olympic Committee’s restriction on what it calls “ambush marketing,” or having an athlete use the Games by representing a product that isn’t already an official partner.

Richards and several other athletes, from various countries, mounted a Twitter blitz called #WeDemandChange.

In fact, the IOC tries to ban athletes from tweeting or blogging about their sponsors if those sponsors are not Visa, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and the eight other official benefactors.

“Only 2 percent of U.S. athletes are able to tweet about their sponsors because only two percent of athletes have USOC or IOC sponsors,” Richards-Ross said.

“I just believe that the Olympic ideal and the Olympic reality are different. I think it’s unjust that athletes are not part of the conversation. Athletes just want to be considered.”