Novak Djokovic Says He's Not Anti-Vax, But is Ready to Miss Trophies If Forced to Get Jab

© AP Photo / Mark BakerFILE - Defending champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic practices ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 12, 2022
FILE - Defending champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic practices ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 12, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.02.2022
In January, the Serbian athlete, considered one of the best tennis players in the sport's history, found himself at the centre of a major scandal that saw him being deported from Australia and missing the Australian Open over his vaccination status.
Tennis star Novak Djokovic says he is not part of the anti-vax movement, but says he is ready to miss out on future tennis competitions if he is forced to get a vaccination. In an interview with the BBC, his first since the Australian Open saga, the Serbian athlete said he was "never against vaccination", but stressed that he supports the freedom to choose "whether you want to get vaccinated or not".

"I understand that globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end soon to this virus. And vaccination is probably the biggest effort that was made, probably half of the planet was vaccinated…But I was represented and always supported the freedom to choose what you put into your body. It's really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you. As an elite professional athlete, I have always carefully reviewed, assessed, everything that comes in [into my body]" – from the supplements, food, the water that I drink or sports drinks – anything really that comes into my body as a fuel", Djokovic said.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner then went on to say that after assessing all the information he received on the coronavirus vaccines he decided not get a jab "as of today".

The 34-year-old emphasised that he understands the consequences of his decision, meaning that not being vaccinated he is unable to participate in major tennis tournaments. Asked whether he is ready to forgo the chance of becoming the greatest tennis player ever over his stance on vaccination, the athlete said the following:

"Yes, I do. That is the price I'm willing to pay. Because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else. I'm trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can".

Australian Open Saga and Violation of COVID-19 Safety Rules

Djokovic's interview comes almost a month after he was deported from Australia over his vaccination status, which ignited a major diplomatic scandal between Canberra and Belgrade and fuelled the debate on vaccine hesitancy.
The scandal started after the athlete received a medical exemption from two independent medical panels in Australia, organised by Tennis Australia, which hosts the Australian Open tournament, and Victoria state, where the event is held.

Under the current rules in Australia, an unvaccinated person can enter the country only if they have a medical excuse for not getting the jab.
The conditions include:
inflammatory cardiac illness;
undergoing surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness;
underlying mental disorders;
any serious effect to vaccine;
Djokovic received exemption on the basis of a recent COVID-19 infection. After arriving in Australia he refused to reveal his vaccination status, prompting immigration officials to cancel his visa, while the athlete himself was sent to an immigration detention hotel intended for refugees. He successfully appealed that decision and his visa was reinstated.

However, Australian officials said only individuals who've caught COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated are allowed to enter Australia. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke revoked his visa for a second time citing health and good order grounds and he was then deported.

It appears Djokovic's stance on vaccination played a key role in the standoff with Australian authorities. Canberra has had some of the strictest rules on the coronavirus, including lockdowns and vaccine mandates. The athlete previously said that he is not in favour of the vaccines, while his wife, who has nearly 600,000 followers on Instagram, posted a 10-minute video blaming the pandemic on 5G networks, a popular conspiracy theory.

These details led many to believe that the couple are part of the anti-vax movement. Now, Novak Djokovic has stated that he is not part of the movement and that he completely disagrees with it, but there is one issue that he did not address in the interview with the BBC – the inconsistency with his COVID-19 tests.

His lawyers first said that he tested positive on 16 December. The news prompted anger as Djokovic attended two public events – an award ceremony at his tennis centre in Belgrade on 17 December and an interview and a photoshoot with the French newspaper L'Equipe on 18 December. Following the backlash, the athlete's lawyers said that the result came late on 17 December.

Djokovic admitted though that he attended the interview with L’Equipe knowing he had a positive test. He explained his decision, saying he "felt obliged" to go and didn't want to "let the journalist down".

He said he wore a mask during the interview, but took it off while posing for a photoshoot. Djokovic called his actions an "error of judgment".

According to Johns Hopkins University, almost 6 million people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic started. In his latest interview with the BBC, the 34-year-old said he takes the disease "very-very seriously". One may struggle to believe him given that he violated safety rules when Omicron, a coronavirus variant which is more infectious and is able to evade vaccines, was spreading.

According to the BBC, the papers on his COVID-19 tests submitted by his lawyers to a federal court in Australia show that the results came in on 16 December.
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