Djokovic Admits False Statement on Australia Travel Document

MELBOURNE, Australia – Top-ranked male tennis player Novak Djokovic admitted on Wednesday that a travel document he presented to Australian border officials last week contained false information, as the country’s authorities continued to report ‘investigate whether he should be deported.

Mr Djokovic also said he took part in an interview and photoshoot last month in his native Serbia, even after testing positive for coronavirus, in apparent violation of the country’s rules for those infected. Australian officials have said they are investigating whether Mr Djokovic, who is not vaccinated, poses a risk to public health.

The tennis star’s comments came in a statement he posted on social media which he said was intended to “clear up the misinformation” about the weeks before he arrived in Melbourne for the Australian Open. He was held for days by Australian border officials before being released by a federal judge on Monday.

But Mr Djokovic’s statement did not fully resolve a series of questions that have arisen over his quest to stay in Australia and seek a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title. Among them is exactly when he learned of the positive test result and how his travel documents came to falsely claim that he had not traveled abroad in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia.

The statement posted on Instagram, which Mr Djokovic said would be his last remarks on his ordeal in Australia, was released as the country’s Immigration Minister said he was still considering exercising his personal powers to cancel the player’s visa again. Immigration officials were also investigating discrepancies in documents Mr Djokovic presented as he attempted to enter Australia last week with an exemption from a Covid-19 vaccination requirement.

Australian tennis officials have granted the exemption on the basis of what Mr Djokovic said was a Covid infection he had in mid-December. He had been criticized for images on social media showing him at events while allegedly infected with the coronavirus.

Mr Djokovic said on Wednesday he took a PCR test on December 16 after some people at a basketball game he attended two days earlier tested positive for the coronavirus. Although he had no symptoms, he also did a rapid antigen test “out of caution,” he said, and came back negative.

On December 17, he said, while awaiting his PCR result, he attended a tennis event in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, where he presented prizes to children. He said he had another rapid antigen test before witnessing this event, which came back negative, and his PCR test did not come back positive until after it was over.

On December 18, he gave an interview and photoshoot with French sports newspaper L’Equipe “to fulfill a long-standing commitment,” he said.

“I felt compelled to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the reporter down, but I made sure to take my social distances and wear a mask except when my photo was taken, ”Mr. Djokovic said.

“While I returned home after the interview to isolate myself for the required period, after reflection, it was an error in judgment and I accept that I should have postponed this engagement”, a- he added.

It was not the first time that Mr Djokovic had to apologize for the contemptuous actions he took during the pandemic. In mid-2020, with the virus raging in Europe and elsewhere, he hosted a tennis tournament after which he and several others tested positive.

While Mr Djokovic said in his statement on Wednesday that he “did not receive notification of a positive PCR result” until December 17 – after the event involving children – the documents he provided Australian authorities as he attempted to enter the country said the result was returned the day before.

A copy of his medical certificate for his positive PCR test showed that the test was done at 1:05 p.m. on December 16 and that the positive result was returned at 8:19 a.m. the same day. In an affidavit delivered to an Australian court, he said: “On December 16, 2021, I was tested and diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID).” It is not known exactly when he learned of his alleged positive test.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said this week that if Mr Djokovic had known he tested positive for the coronavirus before attending the awards ceremony on December 17, he would have “clearly broken the rules” in Serbia.

But more information was needed, she added, saying: “I don’t know when he got the test result, when he read it.”

When asked what would happen if it turned out that Mr. Djokovic had violated the quarantine rules, she said the Serbian government “would take care of it”.

In his statement, Mr Djokovic also asked about the statement he made on his visa documents that he had not traveled to any other country in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia. The paperwork warns of severe penalties for false answers to the question.

His statement appeared to be contradicted by social media posts showing him traveling between Spain and Serbia. On Wednesday, he said his agent had made an “administrative error in checking the wrong box”.

“It was human error and certainly not deliberate,” he said, adding that his team on Wednesday had “provided additional information to the Australian government to clarify the matter.”

This means the saga is unlikely to be resolved soon, with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke saying he needed more time to review the new information before deciding to cancel the visa again. by Mr. Djokovic.

A spokesperson for Mr Hawke said Mr Djokovic’s lawyers had made “additional lengthy submissions and supporting documents deemed relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa.”

“Of course, this will affect the timing of a decision,” he added.

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