The Australian anti-doping authority was not amused after viewing a TV ad featuring former disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson that made “light of the use of performance-enhancing drugs.”
Johnson, who was stripped of his 100-metre Olympic gold medal at the 1988 Soeul Games for steroid use, promotes a “juiced-up” mobile phone app for a gambling company.
In the Sportsbet ad, Johnson makes a few doping-related puns including the line, “it tested positive for speed and power again and again.”
Other pumped up athletes are shown promoting the app.
“To use a known drug cheat such as Ben Johnson to advertise their product is utterly inappropriate,” federal sports minister Greg Hunt said on Monday.
The company, however, remains adamant in its defence of the commercial and will not pull the ad.
“Sportsbet does not condone the use of performance enhancing drugs … [but] we make no apologies for injecting some humour into advertising,” a Sportsbet spokesman told News Ltd media.
Nick Xenophon, an independent Australian senator, urged the Australian Communications and Media Authority to take action.
“It is just wrong on so many levels — glorifying a drug cheat, tying it in with gambling and promoting it to kids in a lighthearted way,” Xenophon said.
The Australian Sports Anti-doping authority, in a statement released to the media, agreed with Xenophon.
“This advertising campaign belittles the achievements of clean athletes and denigrates those who work to protect clean sport across the world.”
Among other references to performance-enhancing drugs, the commercial closes by saying that the app “puts the roid in Android.”