Australian Sports Minister demands ad featuring Ben Johnson be pulled from air
Canberra, May 15 (IANS) Australia’s Sports Minister Greg Hunt has said a TV advertisement created by online bookmaker Sportsbet must be taken off air, as it glorifies convicted steroid cheats and condones the use of performance enhancing drugs.
The betting company’s latest ad campaign promotes its new Android phone app, and is titled “putting the ‘roid in Android.” The advertisement controversially features disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who had his 1988 Olympic Games 100m gold medal stripped after it was revealed he used performance-enhancing drugs, reports Xinhua news agency.
Johnson was reportedly paid around $145,000 for appearing in the ad, but Hunt had on Monday demanded the company “pull the ad” saying they “should know better.”
“To use a known drug cheat such as Ben Johnson to advertise their product is utterly inappropriate,” Hunt told News Corp.
Hunt’s sentiments were backed up by Senator Nick Xenophon, head of minor party Nick Xenophon Team (NXT), who said impressionable children were watching the ads which glorified cheating.
“It is just wrong on so many levels — glorifying a drug cheat, tying it in with gambling and promoting it to kids in a light-hearted way,” Xenophon said.
Despite the criticism from those in Canberra, others were quick to point out the ad’s humor, in which Sportsbet promises “performance enhancement” betting on the company’s new “juiced-up” phone app.
Dave Culbert, a former Olympic long jumper, said the ad was “pretty funny,” but acknowledged that many professional athletes would be upset that a convicted drug cheat could be paid so much to appear in an advertisement.
Meanwhile a spokesperson from Sportsbet responded to the criticism on Monday, declaring that while the betting company “does not condone the use of performance-enhancing drugs” the company makes “no apologies for injecting some humour into advertising.”