Unfortunately - no.
Only gift to the eligible charitable organization may be deducted on your tax return.
The IRS provides that a gift to a specific person or the gift that benefits a specific person is not deductible.
For a recipient of the gift - does not need to claim it as income. Please see for reference IRS publication 525 page 30 - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p525.pdf
The donor would be required to file a gift tax returns if the gift amount is above $12,000 per person per year (for 2007). There will not be any gift tax unless lifetime limit of $1,000,000 is reached.
If you provide a specific source - I would examine it.
Thus, see for reference IRS publication 526 page 6 - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p526.pdf
You cannot deduct contributions to specific individuals.
If "the business sponsors an athlete" means - a gift to an athlete - the answer is no - that is not a business expense. You may find in the IRS publication 535 information which business expenses are deductible. - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p535.pdf
If that means that the business paid to the athlete for services - for instance advertisement - that would be legit business expenses.
The article you referenced above may not be used as a ground for deductions and might be misleading
Corporations allowed to deduct charitable contributions on form 1020 line 19 - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1120.pdf , however sponsoring an athlete or a sport team may is not deductible as charitable contribution.
Please also see instructions pages 10-11 for details about rules of deducting charitable contributions. - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1120.pdf More details are in the IRS publication 526 mentioned above. - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p526.pdf - please see page 2
Not Deductible As Charitable Contributions - Money or property you give to:
Charitable contributions may not be deducted as business expenses. To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your field of business, trade, or profession. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your business, trade, or profession. It is unlikely that sponsoring an athlete or a sport team met definition of business expenses. - see IRS publication 583 page 9 - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p583.pdf
Unless the sport is a field of business - the only way I may suggest for deduction is advertisement.
Sorry if the answer disappointed you.