Canadian former sprinter Ben Johnson is at the centre of controversy after starring in an Australian television commercial.
Johnson, who had his 1988 Olympic gold medal rescinded because he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, was featured in an advertisement for Sportsbet, an Australian online bookmaker.
“It tested positive for speed and power again and again,” Johnson says in the commercial.
The advertisement has caused an uproar among Australian politicians and anti-doping officials because of the multiple references to performance-enhancing drugs. Johnson is introduced in the advertisement as someone who “really knows his stuff” along with an asterisk next to his 1988 100m gold medal accomplishment.
“It is just wrong on so many levels, glorifying a drug cheat, tying it in with gambling and promoting it to kids in a lighthearted way,” Nick Xenophon, a senator for South Australia, said, according to the Guardian. More than 33,000 people have viewed the YouTube version of the commercial as of May 15.
As the betting platform is available on mobile, the commercial says that Sportsbet puts “the roid into Android” and it’s “juiced up.” The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has lodged a complaint “with the relevant authority,” according to an ASADA statement dated May 15.
The statement, in part, reads:
“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. This advertising campaign belittles the achievements of clean athletes and denigrates those who work to protect clean sport across the world.”
Sportsbet have no plans to pull the commercial, according to the Guardian.
In case you missed it, Johnson starred in a commercial with Frank D’Angelo promoting an energy drink in March 2006.
“I cheetah all the time,” Johnson notably said in reference to the name of the energy drink, Cheetah Power Surge.