Are Olympians Allowed To Have Tattoos?

As the Rio Games draw ever nearer, it's time to ask some questions. Take, for instance, the topic of body modification — are Olympians allowed to have tattoos? It's a fair question, given the elite competition's notoriously strict regulations — but as evidenced by the picture above, yes — Olympians are permitted to sport tattoos, and many athletes over the years have taken advantage of that. In fact, a large number of competitors choose to commemorate the occasion by inking the iconic image of the Olympics' five rings.

For swimmers in particular, it's practically a rite of passage — the New York Times penned a piece on the prevalence of Olympian swimmers with tattoos, and many past athletes chimed in on the subject. Elizabeth Beisel, who was 15 for her first Olympics in 2008 joked, "It’s the one tattoo that parents will let you get," a sentiment that many an athlete agreed with. 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin identified herself as part of the small minority that didn't get inked, and 1988 triple-medalist Chris Jacobs even sacrificed a crucial ten full days of training to get his ink, since the chlorine would ruin his new tattoo — he had to make up a "virus with horrible symptoms" just to stay out of trouble with his coach.

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That said, there are some limitations: Athletes competing in the games are not allowed to use their tattoos as advertisements, which has actually led to some recent disqualifications. Just last May, British Paralympic athlete (one of 2012's gold medalists, no less) Josef Craig was disqualified for sporting the Olympic rings.

It's more than a little surprising, especially when you consider the popularity of the interlocked rings — but less so when you consider the fact that the International Paralympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee are actually separate entities. Thus, sporting one's logo for one of the other's events is actually classified as an advertisement — which subsequently leads to disqualification.

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All hope is not lost, though: Tattoos can thankfully be covered up, so if you happen to have the Nike logo splashed across your lower back, you can always invest in a really good concealer.