Djokovic Tested Positive for Coronavirus in December, His Lawyers Say

MELBOURNE, Australia – In a court filing on Saturday, lawyers for Novak Djokovic said the tennis star had tested positive for the coronavirus in mid-December and that the Australian government had made a mistake this week by canceling his visa over a requirement of vaccination.

Djokovic, who hopes to defend his men’s singles title at the Australian Open this month, was denied permission to enter the country on Thursday after arriving at a Melbourne airport. Border authorities said they canceled his visa because he had not provided evidence to justify being exempt from Australia’s requirement that arrivals be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In Saturday’s filing, Djokovic’s lawyers said Tennis Australia had granted him a vaccine exemption due to a positive coronavirus test result on December 16 and because 14 days later, he had had no fever or respiratory symptoms in 72 hours. .

The terms of the exemption were in line with the recommendations of Australia’s immunization advisory body, the lawyers argued. Given these circumstances, among others, “Mr. Djokovic understood that he had the right to enter Australia, ”the document reads.

Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, is quarantined in a Melbourne hotel while awaiting a hearing, scheduled for Monday, on his appeal of the government’s decision to revoke his visa.

He announced in June 2020 that he and his wife had tested positive for the coronavirus, but their December infection had not been previously disclosed.

Djokovic’s lawyers argue that Australian authorities, by canceling his visa, “radically and fundamentally misinterpreted or misapplied the advice from Australia’s immunization advisory body on whether a coronavirus infection in the past six months should exempt him from the vaccination requirement. .

The filing also claims that Mr. Djokovic was denied procedural fairness after arriving in Australia, when immigration authorities detained him at the airport from approximately midnight to 8 am.

His lawyers say immigration officials initially told Djokovic that a decision on his visa would not be made until after 8:30 a.m., after he had a chance to speak with Tennis Australia officials. But around 6 a.m., they say, they pressured him to accept an immediate decision. He relented, “feeling he had no other choice,” and was notified at 7:42 am that his visa had been canceled, according to the filing.

The Australian Border Force declined to comment on the filing, citing the pending court hearing. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that the revocation of Mr. Djokovic’s visa was “simply a matter of following the rules.”

If Djokovic’s appeal fails, he could be barred from Australia for three years, under the rules applicable to people whose visas are canceled.

Separately, the Australian Border Force said Saturday night that two others linked to the tennis tournament they had been investigating had left the country.

“The Australian Border Force (ABF) investigation into the visa status of two other individuals related to the Australian Open has been concluded,” it said in an emailed statement. “The ABF can confirm that both people have left Australia voluntarily.”

The statement did not identify the two people, but local media had reported the investigations a few days earlier.

On Friday, the Czech Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that a Czech player, Renata Voracova, had been placed in the same detention as Mr. Djokovic, along with “several other tennis players.” She had “proven her non-infectious status in a way that entitles her to participate in the tournament” and had already played in a prep event, according to the statement, but had “decided to stop participating in the tournament and leave Australia due to the limited possibility of training “.

The Australia Broadcasting Corporation also reported that a European tennis official in similar circumstances had left the country.

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