Sportsbet stakes reputation on disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson

Australian betting firm Sportsbet has taken a gamble of its own after recruiting disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson for its latest advertising campaign, despite a flood of complaints.

Johnson was outed as a drugs cheat after testing positive for steroids during the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and has now been drafted out of retirement to promote Sportsbet’s new Android app, using the strapline putting ‘the roid into Android’.

The advert, which remains on air, drew a stinging rebuke from Australian sports minister Greg Hunt who labelled the commercial as ‘utterly inappropriate’, together with an official complaint from the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority (Asada).

In a statement Asada 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,” an Asada statement read. “This advertising campaign belittles the achievements of clean athletes and denigrates those who work to protect clean sport across the world.”

Despite the growing tide of criticism Sportsbet has shown no sign of backing down, with a defiant spokesperson saying: “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.”

Sportsbet added that it did not condone the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.