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Sportsbet forced to pull drug cheat Ben Johnson ad

Sportsbet forced to pull Android betting app ad

Online bookmaker Sportsbet has been forced to pull a controversial advertisement from all media platforms after it was found in breach of advertising standards.

The ad which involves notorious Olympic drug cheat, Ben Johnson, promoting sports betting at the popular bookmaker caused a lot of backlash following the first moment it was aired.

The commercial features Johnson stating the new Sportsbet betting app available to punters puts “the roid into Android”.


Many complained the 90-second commercial glorifies drug cheats since he was paid around $200,000 to star in the advert.

The 150 complaints about the Canadian – who had his 100-metre Olympic gold medal taken off him after drug tests revealed steroids in his system – starring in the ad had Sportsbet on defence.

“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,” a spokesperson for Sportsbet said.

But suggestions the bookmaker’s ad treated the issue too lightly since it included a number of doping puns resulted in the ad being pulled from live sports broadcasts including AFL coverage, after the first weekend. It remained televised during other programs and appeared on social media.

The Advertising Standards Bureau then launched an investigation and as a result, Sportsbet has been forced to pull its promotion from free-to-air and pay TV networks, as well as social media platforms.

The investigation was likely launched as a result of Federal Sports Minister Greg Hunt and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority labelling the ad as unacceptable.

The Board’s findings acknowledged that the ad did not encourage the use of performance enhancing drugs but it was “contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety”.

“The Board considered that the prevailing community standard on health and safety is opposed to the use of performance-enhancing drugs and to avoid drug use more generally,” the ruling said.

“The Board, therefore, determined that the advertisement breached section 2.6 of the Code.”

The Board also noted complaints were based on the impacts of children in terms of the message it sends kids when it comes to drugs in sport, as well as wagering. The Board acknowledged the ad did not target children but said it was broadcast during sporting events and news programs when families of all ages were watching.

“The Board considered that young children would be unlikely to understand the double entendre references to drug use and that there was not a breach of the Code on this basis,” it found.

Sportsbet had a chance to defend the ad to the Board, arguing it was “clearly comical in nature” and was not presented “as real outcomes achievable through taking performance enhancing drugs”.

“This includes showing Mr Johnson at the starting blocks lifting both of his hands off the ground in an unnaturally balanced position, the size of the weight that the Eastern Bloc weightlifter is lifting, and smoke coming from the cyclist’s tyres to depict the speed he is generating,” a spokesperson for the online betting site said.

Sportsbet has been given permission by the Board to modify the ad before being broadcast again.