Australian government ministers are attacking a new betting ad that turns drug cheating into a joke


Communications minister Mitch Fifield labelled a new Sportsbet ad featuring Olympic drug cheat Ben Johnson “dumb” and “ill-advised” ahead of the government’s crackdown on TV betting advertisements.

Industry website Mumbrella reports that Fifield took issue with the ad, which features Johnson, jokes about how Sportsbet’s new app “puts the ‘roid’ in Android”.

It introduces Johnson as the winner of the 1988 men’s 100m sprint final at Seoul Olympics with an asterisk noting he was the champion for 48 hours.

Johnson won what many regarded as the most famous showdown in Olympic history when he beat defending champion Carl Lewis. But the race became infamous when Johnson was stripped of the gold medal after failing a drugs test and the Canadian sprinter was found guilty of taking steroids.

“When it comes to performance enhancement Ben Johnson really knows his stuff, which is why he is happy to endorse Sportsbet new juiced up Android app. This thing is a hit with performance enhancement experts all over the world,” the ad begins, followed by a series of drug-related puns involving a weightlifter, cyclist and Chinese swimmer.

Mumbrella says more than 50 complaints have already been lodged with the Advertising Standards Bureau against the ad.

Among those lodging an objection is Australia’s anti-doping authority, ASADA.

Ahead of last week’s budget, the Turnbull government announced a crackdown on live betting ads during live sports broadcasts up until 8.30pm amid growing concerns about the influence of betting ads on young people.

The communications minister said complaints had been lodged with both the ASB and ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and will be investigated.

“You have got to keep in mind community values and community expectations and as I say, I just think that the ad was a really dumb idea,” Fifield said.

Federal sports minister Greg Hunt also labelled it “utterly unacceptable” and wants it taken off air.

A Sportsbet spokesperson said the company was not planning to pull the ad in response.

“You only have to look at the comments on social media and news websites to see that the majority of Australian’s love this ad – in fact some say it’s the best on TV and it’s hard to disagree with them,” they said.

Mumbrella has more here.

And here’s the ad.

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