Djokovic admits false statement about travel document to Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic, the best male tennis player, acknowledged on Wednesday that a travel document he presented to Australian border officials last week contained false information as authorities continued to investigate whether he should be deported.

Mr. Djokovic also said he had participated in an interview and a photo shoot last month in his native Serbia even after testing positive for coronavirus, in an apparent breach of the country’s rules for infected people. 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 posted on social media stating that he intended to “clarify the misinformation” about the weeks before his arrival in Melbourne for the Open d ‘Australia. He was detained for days by Australian border officials before being released on Monday by a federal judge.

But the statement of Mr. Djokovic did not fully resolve a number of issues that have revolved around his quest to remain in Australia and seek a record number 21 Grand Slam title. Among them is exactly when he learned the positive result of the test and how his documents They falsely claimed that they had not traveled internationally for the 14 days prior to their arrival in Australia.

The statement posted on Instagram, that Mr. Djokovic said it would be his last comment on his experience in Australia, it was published when the country’s immigration minister said he was still considering whether to exercise his personal powers to cancel the player’s visa again. Immigration officials were also investigating the discrepancies in the documentation that Mr. Djokovic filed when he tried to enter Australia last week with an exemption from a requirement for Covid-19 vaccinations.

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

Mr. Djokovic said on Wednesday that a PCR test had been done on December 16 after some people at a basketball game he had attended two days earlier tested positive for coronavirus. Although she had no symptoms, she also had a rapid antigen test “as a precaution,” she said, and it turned out to be negative.

On December 17, he said, while awaiting the outcome of the PCR, he attended a tennis event in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, where he presented prizes to children. He said that another rapid antigen test was done before attending that event, which turned out to be negative, and that his PCR test did not come back positive until after it was over.

On Dec. 18, he continued with an interview and a photo shoot with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe “to fulfill a long-standing commitment,” he said.

“I felt compelled to go ahead and do the interview with L’Equipe, as I didn’t want to disappoint the journalist, but I made sure I distanced myself socially and wore a mask, except when I was photographed,” he said. say Mr. Djokovic.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate myself during the required period, on reflection, it was a mistake of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this appointment,” he added.

It was not the first time that Mr. Djokovic had to apologize for the contemptuous actions he has taken during the pandemic. In mid-2020, as the virus wreaked havoc in Europe and elsewhere, he held a tennis tournament after which he and several others tested positive.

Although Mr. Djokovic said in a statement on Wednesday that he had “not been notified of a positive PCR result” until 17 December – after the children’s event – the documents he provided to Australian officials as he tried to enter the country said the result had been returned the day before.

A copy of his medical certificate of his positive PCR test stated that the test was performed 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 was unclear when he learned of his alleged positive test.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said this week that if Mr. Djokovic would have known that he was 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, he added, “I don’t know when he received the test result, when he read it.”

When asked what would happen if it was discovered that Mr Djokovic had breached the quarantine rules, he said the Serbian government “would take care of it”.

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

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

“This was a human error and certainly unintentional,” he said, adding that his team on Wednesday “had provided additional information to the Australian government to clarify the matter”.

This means that the saga is unlikely to be resolved quickly, as Immigration Minister Alex Hawke indicated that he needed more time to consider the new information before deciding whether to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa again. .

A spokesman for Mr. Hawke said Mr. Djokovic had made “extensive additional communications and supporting documentation that was said to be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa.”

“Naturally, this will affect the deadline for making a decision,” he added.

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