Melbourne: World No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic has issued an exhaustive clarification on social media after reports emerged that he was part of a children’s event on December 17 and also gave an interview to L’Equipe on December 18, knowing that he was infected with COVID-19.
Even since reports of Djokovic taking part in a children’s function and giving an interview have emerged, questions are being raised about the validity of his positive test and the fact that he did not care he had tested positive.
The ace Serbian player’s defence team, in order to secure his release from detention as soon as he arrived to compete in the Australian Open, had stated that the defending champion had tested positive on December 16, two weeks before his arrival in Australia. They used it as a ground for his medical exemption to play in the opening Grand Slam of the year.
However, records submitted by his defence lawyers suggest that the test was taken more recently, on December 26.
Djokovic has not revealed his vaccination status and had sought medical exemption from Tennis Australia (TA) on the ground that he had tested positive for COVID-19 in December. Only fully vaccinated and a “miniscule number” of medically exempted players can compete in the Australian Open.
Djokovic, in his Instagram posts on Wednesday admitted he did conduct an interview in the knowledge he was infected with COVID-19 and said that his agent, who had filled the visa application, had erroneously ticked the wrong box.
“I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to my positive PCR COVID test result,” said Djokovic.
“This is misinformation which needs to be corrected, particularly in the interest of alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia, and to address matters which are very hurtful and concerning to my family. I want to emphasise that I have tried very hard to ensure the safety of everyone and my compliance with the testing obligations.
“I attended a basketball game in Belgrade on December 14 after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive with COVID 19. Despite having no COVID symptoms, I took a rapid antigen test on December 16 which was negative, and out of an abundance of caution, also took an official and approved PCR Test on that same day.
“The next day I attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children and took a rapid antigen test before going to the event, and it was negative. I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test result until after that event.”
However, Djokovic admitted he knew he was positive before his interview on December 18 but did it because of commitment, apologising for the “error of judgement”.
“The next day, on December 18 I was at my tennis centre in Belgrade to fulfil a long-standing commitment for a L’Equipe interview and photoshoot. I cancelled all other events exempt for the interview. I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask exempt when my photograph was being taken.
“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error in judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.”
Speaking about the administrative error made by his agent, the nine-time Australian Open champion said, “On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf — as I told immigration officials on my arrival — and my agent sincerely apologies for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,” Djokovic said.
“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur. Today, my team has provided addition information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.”
The documents submitted by Djokovic about his PCR test conducted by the Institute of Public Health of Serbia, which was used as part of his court defence, suggests the test was taken more recently on the December 26, according to sen.com.au.
“Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has the ‘persona power’ to deport Djokovic from the country,” according to the website.