An Australian sports betting company is under fire for a TV ad starring former Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who was first across the line in the 100 metres sprint at the 1988 Seoul Olympics before testing positive for steroids and leaving the Games in disgrace.
Federal sports minister Greg Hunt has demanded the agency pull the ad, while the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority. It also issued a statement which in part said:
"This advert makes light of the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport and sends the completely wrong message that the use of drugs in sport is normal.
This advertising campaign belittles the achievements of clean athletes and denigrates those who work to protect clean sport across the world."
But betting agency Sportsbet has scoffed at all that.
"We make no apologies for injecting some humor into advertising," Sportsbet PR manager Christian Jantzen told HuffPost Australia.
"We wanted to express how fast our new unfairly fast Android app is and what better way than to use Ben Johnson?"
The ad promotes the new android app using a series of double entendres like "juiced up" and "performance enhancement" and "everyone's on it" and "tested positive for speed" and "extra gear", before culminating in the line "it puts the 'roid into android".
Here's the ad in full.
Renowned anti-gambling campaigner Senator Nick Xenophon has also lodged a complaint. He said the ad was "just wrong on so many levels, glorifying a drug cheat, tying it in with gambling and promoting it to kids in a lighthearted way".
Others, like Rio Olympic gold medallist Mack Horton, were similarly unimpressed.
But Sportsbet said the ad would continue to run. It said it had been cleared by ad classifier CAD and permitted to air at the same times as its other and retail ads.
"Sportsbet have no plans to pull the adverts from air. We've received overwhelmingly positive support from the public and they see it for what it is, a tongue-in-cheek joke," the agency said in a statement.
"You only have to look at the comments on social media and news websites to see that the majority of Australians love this ad. The majority of people see the ad for what it is. Some have called the ads the best on TV at the moment and it's hard to disagree with them."
Johnson was reportedly paid $200,000 for his part in the ad.
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