TORONTO — A new Australian commercial that features disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson making light of doping has drawn criticism from the country’s sport minister and prompted its anti-doping agency to lodge an official complaint.
The ad for Sportsbet, an Australian online gambling outfit, includes several tongue-in-cheek references to doping and Johnson’s disqualification from the 1988 Olympics.
Johnson touts the company’s ”juiced-up” mobile app, saying “it tested positive for speed and power again and again.”
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority said it has complained to regulators about the ad while sports minister Greg Hunt called for it to be pulled from the airwaves.
“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,” the ASADA said in a release.
Hunt called the ad and the use of Johnson as a pitchman “utterly inappropriate,” according to local reports, while independent senator Nick Xenophon has also reportedly condemned the commercial and demanded action from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Sportsbet has defended the spot, saying it was meant to be funny.
“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 Corp.
It’s not the first time Johnson has appeared in a commercial playing on his doping history. More than a decade ago, he endorsed Cheetah sports drinks with the tagline “Go ahead and Cheetah.”
Johnson won gold in the 100 metres at the 1988 Seoul Olympics but was later stripped of the medal due to a positive drug test.