Ben Johnson, the infamous Canadian sprinter who won the 1988 100-meter gold medal at the Seoul Olympics for approximately 48 hours before testing positive for the banned substance stanozolol, is now at the center of another controversy.
In a PED pun-heavy advertisement for Australian sports betting company SportsBet, Johnson endorses the company's Android app. "When it comes to performance enhancement, Ben really knows his stuff," the voiceover says as Johnson holds up a phone with the app. "Everyone's on it," an American riding a stationary bike in a yellow jersey enthusiastically proclaims.
So what's the controversy, you ask? Well, Australian anti-doping officials aren't laughing. In a typical example of the statements issued against the ad, Australia's sports minister Greg Hunt said it's "utterly inappropriate" to have a "known drug cheat" advertising the product. The Australian Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) also lodged an official complaint over the ad and, in a statement 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. This advertising campaign belittles the achievements of clean athletes and denigrates those who work to protect clean sport across the world." (SportsBet has refused to take down the ad and refuses to apologize for "injecting some humour into advertising.")
The idea that PEDs, of all topics, is somehow off limits for humor is almost as absurd as claiming PED use in sports is not normal. As Patrick Hruby of this website wrote last year, "A 2013 WADA study that anonymously surveyed more than 2,000 track and field athletes found that an estimated 29 percent of participants at the 2011 world championships and 45 percent of participants at the Pan-Arab Games had doped during the previous year. A 2015 study published in Sports Medicine estimated that as many as 39 percent of elite international athletes used PEDs. One witness interviewed for a Cycling Independent Reform Commission report released last year claimed that 90 percent of cyclists use drugs, despite some of the toughest testing in sports."
Meanwhile, WADA regularly reports positive test rates of approximately 1 to 2 percent. It's been almost 30 years and WADA, ASADA, and all the other -ADAs are no closer to winning the sports war on drugs. No wonder they can't laugh about it.