In an interview room at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne, an Australian immigration officer sat down throughout from the tennis star Novak Djokovic.
The officer began with a warning.
“I’m now going to warning you,” the officer stated, in line with a public transcript either side have agreed is correct, “that when you present false or cast paperwork or false or deceptive info you might be prosecuted below Australian legal guidelines.”
Even earlier than his airplane touched down in Melbourne final Wednesday evening, Djokovic’s utility for a visa to play in subsequent week’s Australian Open was below scrutiny, and questions swirled about whether or not he could be allowed into the nation. The reply, not less than initially, was no. Australia, which requires all international guests to be vaccinated, however grants exemptions in restricted circumstances, canceled Djokovic’s visa after his airport interview, solely to have a choose reinstate it on Monday on procedural grounds.
“That is his biggest victory, larger than all of the Grand Slams that he has gained,” his mom, Dijana, stated at a information convention on Monday in Belgrade, Serbia.
On Wednesday, nevertheless, as Australia’s high immigration official thought of rejecting Djokovic’s visa once more and its prime minister calculated the political cost of the fight, Djokovic issued an announcement on his Instagram account making an attempt to clarify why he repeatedly appeared with no masks at public occasions after he believed he had been uncovered to the coronavirus, and for 2 days after a take a look at confirmed that he was constructive.
The assertion got here days after revealed studies and Djokovic’s personal social media posts raised questions in regards to the validity of his visa paperwork and his actions within the days round Dec. 16, when, by his account, he had examined constructive for the coronavirus. Djokovic labeled the studies about his actions “misinformation” at the same time as he confirmed they have been correct.
Even the constructive take a look at consequence, which is on the coronary heart of the medical exemption that Djokovic wanted to acquire to play within the Australian Open, has since been solid into doubt by a printed report.
On Monday, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that it had scanned the distinctive pc code connected to Djokovic’s take a look at consequence — which was included in courtroom filings associated to his visa enchantment — and located that it initially reported the take a look at was unfavorable for the virus. However simply over an hour later, when Der Spiegel journalists and others checked the code once more, the linked webpage stated Djokovic’s take a look at was constructive. That was nonetheless the case on Tuesday morning.
The confusion about Djokovic’s take a look at consequence, although, had solely renewed questions on his actions, and false statements about his travel within the interval when he examined constructive.
If Djokovic certainly obtained a constructive consequence on Dec. 16, then his actions within the ensuing days — when he ought to have been isolating — might have endangered the well being and security of dozens of individuals. On the day of his take a look at and the 2 that adopted, for instance, Djokovic’s personal social media postings and contemporaneous accounts present him repeatedly showing at public occasions with no masks and round kids and strangers even after he had recorded a constructive take a look at.
What had Djokovic stated prior to now?
To acquire a visa to enter Australia, Djokovic and his attorneys submitted paperwork that stated he had examined constructive for the coronavirus on Dec. 16. He cited that constructive consequence when he was interviewed by Australia Border Drive officers upon his arrival in Melbourne.
INTERVIEWER: Thanks. Have you ever ever had COVID?
INTERVIEWER: So when did you?
DJOKOVIC: I had COVID twice, I had COVID in June 2020 and I had COVID just lately in — I used to be examined constructive — PCR — sixteenth of December 2021.
INTERVIEWER: Thanks. Sorry what was the date? sixteenth of December?
DJOKOVIC: sixteenth of December 2021, I’ve the paperwork as nicely to verify that if you’d like I can present — simply as a —
INTERVIEWER: Thanks. I’ll simply make a photocopy of these paperwork —
The submitting additionally contains the timing of the take a look at, which was collected about 1 p.m. Dec. 16, and of a constructive consequence returned seven hours later. In his assertion on Wednesday, Djokovic claimed he didn’t study of the constructive consequence till after he had attended an occasion at a tennis heart on Dec. 17 and had two speedy antigen checks return unfavorable outcomes.
What in regards to the medical exemption?
The constructive take a look at consequence was used to justify Djokovic’s utility for a medical exemption to play within the Australian Open, which requires all match contributors to be vaccinated however which granted a number of exemptions to the rule.
On Jan. 4, Djokovic announced on his Instagram account that he had obtained the exemption he wanted. Alongside a smiling photograph, he stated he was headed to Australia.
It was what he had accomplished within the days after his constructive take a look at, although, that now threatened to trigger him issues.
A public determine, in public.
On Dec. 16, the day Djokovic sought a take a look at for the virus, Djokovic was honored with a stamp by the Serbian postal service and toured its facility. In photographs from the occasion, Djokovic seems with the performing director of Serbia’s postal service, Zoran Dordevic.
Djokovic additionally took half in an hourlong panel dialogue that day at a tennis heart that bears his identify. The subject? “The function and institution of authority within the growth of character and self-discipline.”
A day later, Djokovic appeared at an occasion to honor youth tennis gamers on the tennis heart. Not one of the dozens of individuals in a group photo from the ceremony, together with Djokovic, whose constructive take a look at consequence was confirmed an evening earlier, wore a masks.
The Novak Djokovic Standoff With Australia
In his assertion, Djokovic stated he had a unfavorable speedy antigen take a look at earlier than this occasion and solely discovered of his constructive polymerase chain response take a look at afterward.
The subsequent day, although, Dec. 18, Djokovic took half in a photo shoot with the French sports activities publication L’Equipe. Djokovic stated Wednesday he canceled all different obligations beside the interview that day upon studying of his constructive take a look at. He additionally stated he was socially distanced and wore a masks aside from within the images, although he admitted that he regretted preserving the interview as scheduled.
“Whereas I went house after the interview to isolate for the required interval, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I settle for that I ought to have rescheduled this dedication,” he wrote on Instagram.
Serbia’s prime minister, Ana Brnabic, instructed Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that if Djokovic attended occasions after studying he was constructive that he would have “clearly violated the principles.”
Djokovic, who confirmed in his airport interview final week that he’s unvaccinated, stated he wouldn’t be making any additional remark. On Monday, he had declared himself “pleased and grateful” in regards to the choose’s ruling that returned his visa, and he’s clearly planning to remain in Australia, the place he’s scheduled to start the protection of his Australian Open title subsequent week. He resumed practicing nearly instantly after he was launched.
Australia’s immigration minister, in the meantime, continues to “thoroughly consider the matter” of expelling him, and can absolutely weigh whether or not Djokovic was truthful in his statements and on his visa paperwork.
Because the officer famous in his first airport interview, although, offering false or deceptive info might be deemed against the law in Australia. Dropping his visa once more might lead to Djokovic’s being barred from returning to Australia — and to the tennis season’s first main match — for not less than three years.