John­son ad slammed for ‘glori­fy­ing drug cheats’

New Straits Times - - Sport -

SYD­NEY: A con­tro­ver­sial com­mer­cial by an Aus­tralian sports bet­ting com­pany fea­tur­ing dis­graced sprinter Ben John­son has been slammed by the govern­ment for glori­fy­ing drug cheats.

The 90-sec­ond ad­vert by gam­bling firm Sports­bet in­tro­duces John­son, at a desk sur­rounded by a medal and a tro­phy, as the 1988 Olympic gold medal­list while at­tempt­ing to make light of the scene by su­per­im­pos­ing “*For 48 hours” be­low the fallen star.

“When it comes to per­for­mance en­hance­ment Ben re­ally knows his stuff, which is why he is happy to en­dorse Sports­bet’s new juiced-up An­droid app,” the nar­ra­tor says, claim­ing the firm’s phone bet­ting ap­pli­ca­tion was putting “the roid into An­droid.”

Aus­tralian Sports Min­is­ter Greg Hunt blasted the ad as “send­ing a mes­sage that cheat­ing’s okay and should be re­warded and laughed at and glo­ri­fied.”

“They’re glori­fy­ing a drug cheat and they’re pay­ing a known drug cheat a huge princely sum of money,” he told radio sta­tion 2GB late on Monday.

“So it’s an in­sult to clean ath­letes and, frankly, my view is they should pull the ad and they should pay the same amount to ju­nior sport as they paid a known drug cheat.”

John­son was stripped of his 100m gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive to steroids.

The Cana­dian is joined in the ad­vert by a range of drug-cheat­ing stereo­types, in­clud­ing a cy­clist in a yel­low jacket, a mus­cu­lar swim­mer and a Hulk-like body builder.

The Aus­tralian Sports An­ti­Dop­ing Au­thor­ity said it had reg­is­tered an of­fi­cial com­plaint.

“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 dop­ing watch­dog said in a state­ment.

“This ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign be­lit­tles the achieve­ments of clean ath­letes and den­i­grates those who work to pro­tect clean sport across the world.”

Sports­bet laughed off the con­tro­versy.

“The out­rage is so se­vere you could roast a marsh­mal­low on it,” the firm said on its web­site.

“There was just one prob­lem with all of this pub­lic out­rage though. The pub­lic didn’t seem to be out­raged at all. In fact, peo­ple kinda liked it,” Sports­bet added, point­ing to dozens of so­cial me­dia posts en­dors­ing the com­mer­cial. AFP

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