Australian Advertising Standards Board Bans Drug Cheat Ad

“Just a joke” reasoning backfires

Last month, Australian sports betting operator Sportsbet released a new ad starring disgraced drug cheat athlete Ben Johnson.

Unsurprisingly, this caused a fair bit of controversy and media outrage as well as leading to numerous complaints filed by politicians, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and members of the public.

When confronted with accusations of glorifying drug taking in sports, Sportsbet defended the ad by saying it was just a bit of humour.

The Australian Advertising Standards Board has responded by agreeing with Sportsbet’s statement and banning the ad for “[making] light of the use of performance enhancing drugs”. This as well as the frequent drug use references were considered a breach of the AANA’s (Australian Association of National Advertisers) code of ethics.

Sportsbet pulled the ad on 2 June saying that it would be adjusted to comply with the objections.

The operator also clarified that they in no way encouraged or condoned the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport.