Wed, Jun 07, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Sportsbet ad banned for making light of performance-enchancing drug use

The Guardian

A Sportsbet advertisement featuring Olympic drug cheat Ben Johnson has been banned by the Australian Advertising Standards Board (ABS) because it makes light of the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport.

The Canadian athlete, who was stripped of the 100m gold medal for sprinting after testing positive for anabolic steroids at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, stars in the ad for a new Android phone-betting app.

The ad relies on double entendres and puns about steroids such as: “Nobody knows performance enhancement like Ben Johnson,” “unfairly fast android app” and “get on it.”

Next to an image of Johnson are the words: “Putting the roid in Android.”

After receiving a large number of complaints from the public, as well as from the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority, the advertising watchdog found the ad was unethical and breached section 2.6 of the advertising standards code and it was taken off the air on Friday.

An investigation found the ad depicted “performance-enhancing drug use in sport in a manner that is contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety” and all four versions of the ad have been banned.

“In the board’s view the use of Ben Johnson in conjunction with a humorous message about drug use conveys a message that there is not a negative side to drug use and cheating and could be seen as a suggestion that there are benefits to gain from cheating or from behavior that will enhance your performance,” the board said in its case report released yesterday.

“The board also considered that, despite the parody, there is little consequence depicted for these actions as the athlete is portrayed in a positive way, rather than showing a negative side to the choices he made in his sporting career. In the board’s view, the overall tone of the advertisement makes light of the use of performance-enhancing drugs and of using performance-enhancing drugs to cheat in sport,” it said.

In its defense of the advertising campaign, Sportsbet said it was a parody and that community concern about the morality of using Johnson was “plainly irrelevant.”

“The fact that Sportsbet has paid Mr Ben Johnson a sum of money to appear in the advertisements and promote Sportsbet’s Android App and that doesn’t ‘sit well’ with a pocket of the community based on their moral compass or otherwise is plainly irrelevant for the purposes of the determination to be made by the ASB,” the company said.

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