Uproar over Nike's 'drug message' T-shirts

Sportswear giant Nike is facing a wave of criticism from politicians and pressure groups in America who accuse the multinational of glamorising drug use in its new T-shirt slogans.

The world's largest athletics wear and shoe supplier has replaced its signature "Just Do It" slogan found on some of its products with the phrases "Dope," "Get High" and "Ride Pipe" in an attempt to mimic language it said is commonly used by the extreme sports enthusiasts it is trying to target.

But critics say products such as the new "Dope" shirt, that shows a pill bottle upended with surfboards and skateboards pouring out, is "irresponsible" and in "poor taste".

Travis Tygart, the CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, said: "Athletes have had their lives ruined by the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and it is totally irresponsible that Nike is now actively promoting it for profit."

Boston's mayor, Thomas Menino, asked a Niketown store to remove a display of the shirts from its window. In a letter sent to the general manager, he criticised Nike for failing to take drug abuse seriously.

"Your window display of T-shirts with drug and profanity wordplay are out of keeping with the character of Boston's Back Bay, our entire city and our aspirations for our young people... not to mention common sense," Mr Menino said in the letter.

In Oregon, home to Nike's headquarters, an anti-drug group also condemned the slogans in a letter it sent to 1,500 people - including members of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"It's gone past edgy," said Tom Parker, spokesman for the Oregon Partnership. "Sure it is the language of skateboarders and surfers, but it's also the language of addicts."

It is not the first time that Nike has been forced to defend itself. The company had an "Air Stab" line of shoes pulled in London three years ago, after a spate of knife deaths and advert- isments for its "Hyperdunk" shoes were withdrawn following criticism that they contained anti-gay messages.

Nike denied the claim that its new slogans endorse drug use. A spokesman said: "This is part of an action sports campaign, featuring marquee athletes using commonly used and accepted expressions for performance at the highest level of their sport; be it surfing, skate or BMX. In no way does Nike condone the use of banned or illegal substances."