Tennis star Novak Djokovic admits making false statements on Australian travel document

Novak Djokovic admitted Wednesday to submitting travel documents containing incorrect information to Australian immigration officials last week and to attending a photo shoot in December after learning he was infected with COVID-19.

The 34-year-old Serbian made the acknowledgments in an Instagram post that he described as an effort to clear up “continuing misinformation about my activities last month.”

Djokovic’s travel history is being scrutinized by Australian authorities as they investigate whether the unvaccinated athlete violated any pandemic regulations when he entered the country on Jan. 5 to compete in this month’s Australian Open.

Immigration officials initially detained Djokovic and canceled his entry visa for attempting to enter Australia while being unvaccinated. The tennis star had been granted a medical exemption based on his claim of having contracted and recovered from the COVID-19 virus in mid-December, but questions have swirled around his account.

A judge on Monday reinstated Djokovic’s visa and ordered his release. However, immigration minister Alex Hawke said he was still considering whether to use his personal powers to cancel the visa again and expel the world’s No. 1 ranked tennis player from the country.

Djokovic and his physiotherapist Ulises Badio hold a practice session Tuesday in Melbourne Park. Photo by Scott Barbour/Tennis Australia/EPA-EFE

On Tuesday, it was revealed that authorities were going over Djokovic’s travel declaration as social media posts indicated that he traveled internationally during the key two-week period before arriving in Melbourne from Spain.

In his statement on Wednesday, Djokovic blamed his agent for making an “administrative mistake” in checking a box stating he had not traveled within a fortnight of entering the country.

“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate,” he said in the statement. “We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes happen.”

Djokovic, who took to the court for a training session at Melbourne Park, said his team has provided additional information to the government to clarify the matter and that his agent “sincerely apologizes” for the error.

However, there are still questions over when Djokovic tested positive for the virus.

In his travel document, Djokovic said he tested positive on Dec. 16, but his Wednesday statement places the PCR test result on the following day.

Djokovic said he took a rapid antigen test on Dec. 16, which returned negative, after attending a basketball game in Serbia two days prior where several people had contracted the virus.

On Dec. 17, he says he took a rapid test before a tennis event in Belgrade, which also came back negative.

“I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test result until after that event,” he said. “The next day, on 18 December I was at my tennis center in Belgrade to fulfill a long-standing commitment for a L’Equipe interview and photo shoot.”

Djokovic said he “felt obliged” to continue with the interview and wore a mask for the duration of the shoot.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment, and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” he said.

On Wednesday, Hawke’s office said Djokovic’s lawyers have submitted more documents and that the minister was still considering whether to expel the Australian Open’s top-seeded player days before the Grand Slam event begins on Monday and runs through Jan. 30. It’s the first Grand Slam event of 2022.

“Mr. Djokovic’s lawyers have recently provided lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation said to be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr. Djokovic’s visa,” a representative from the office said. “Naturally, this will affect the time frame for the decision.”

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