Novak Djokovic made ‘error of judgment’ after positive COVID-19 test

TOPSHOT-TENNIS-AUS-OPEN
Getty Images
0 Comments

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic has acknowledged that his Australian travel declaration form contained incorrect information, as the government nears a decision on whether to deport the Serbian tennis star, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, on public interest grounds.

The men’s tennis No. 1 had his visa canceled on arrival in Melbourne last week when his vaccination exemption was questioned, but he won a legal battle on procedural grounds that allowed him to stay in the country. He still faces the prospect of deportation — a decision that is entirely at the discretion of Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke if deemed to be in the public interest for health and safety reasons.

Hawke has been considering the question since a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said most Australians disapproved of the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion coming to Melbourne to compete in breach of the nation’s tough pandemic quarantine rules.

“Most of us thought because Mr. Djokovic hadn’t been vaxxed twice that he would be asked to leave,” Joyce told Nine Network television on Thursday. “Well, that was our view, but it wasn’t the court’s view.”

“The vast majority of Australians … didn’t like the idea that another individual, whether they’re a tennis player or … the king of Spain or the Queen of England, can come up here and have a different set of rules to what everybody else has to deal with,” Joyce added.

In a statement posted to his social media accounts on Wednesday, the tennis star blamed “human error” by his support team for failing to declare that he had traveled in the two-week period before entering Australia.

Giving false information on the form could be grounds for deportation, the latest twist in a saga over whether the athlete should be allowed stay in Australia despite not being vaccinated. The initial news that Djokovic was granted an exemption to strict vaccination rules to enter the country provoked an outcry and the ensuing dispute has since overshadowed the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Djokovic acknowledged the lapses when he sought to clarify what he called “continuing misinformation” about his movements after he became infected last month — though he did not spell out what inaccuracies he was referring to.

The statement was posted while Djokovic was in Rod Laver Arena holding a practice session, his third on the tournament’s main court since being released from four nights in immigration detention.

Djokovic remains in limbo before the year’s first tennis major starts Monday. The stakes are particularly high since he is seeking a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

Deportation could result in sanctions ranging up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a daunting prospect for a player who has won almost half of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles here.

Court documents detailing Djokovic’s positive test sparked speculation over the star player’s attendance at events in his native Serbia last month. Further questions also were raised about errors on his immigration form that could potentially result in the cancellation of his visa yet again.

On the form, Djokovic said he had not traveled in the 14 days before his flight to Australia, despite being seen in Spain and Serbia in that period.

In his statement, Djokovic described recent commentary as “hurtful” and said he wanted to address it in the interest of “alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia.”

The 34-year-old Serb said he’d taken rapid tests that were negative and he was asymptomatic before he received his positive result from a PCR test he undertook out of an “abundance of caution” after attending a basketball game in Belgrade on Dec. 14.

He received the result late Dec. 17, he said, and scrapped all his commitments except a long-standing interview with L’Equipe newspaper the following day.

“I felt obliged to go ahead … but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” Djokovic said.

The L’Equipe reporter who interviewed the athlete wrote in the newspaper that he and a photographer were also masked during the session — and kept their distance except for a brief moment as Djokovic said goodbye. The reporter said he tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday, and did not mention the photographer’s status.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment,” Djokovic said.

At the time, Serbia required those who were infected with COVID-19 to isolate for at least 14 days. But Djokovic was seen a little over a week after his positive test on the streets of Belgrade, though he said he had tested negative in between.

Meanwhile, Djokovic addressed the Australian travel declaration by saying it was submitted by his support team and “my agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box.”

“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate,” he wrote. “My team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.”

The decision could take a while — but there is time pressure since the draw to determine brackets for the Australian Open is set to take place Thursday.

Hawke’s office issued a statement on Wednesday saying Djokovic’s legal team had filed further documents and added: “Naturally, this will affect the timeframe for a decision.”

At issue is whether he has a valid exemption to strict rules requiring vaccination to enter Australia since he recently recovered from COVID-19.

His exemption to compete was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, the tournament organizer. That apparently allowed him to receive a visa to travel.

But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa upon arrival before a federal judge overturned that decision. Lawyers for the government have said an infection was only grounds for an exemption in cases in which the coronavirus caused severe illness — though it’s not clear why he was issued a visa if that’s the case.

The initial decision to let him compete sparked complaints that Djokovic was being given special treatment — and the subsequent cancellation of his visa raised allegations that he was being targeted once the issue became political. The saga is playing out against the backdrop of growing concern in Australia over surging COVID-19 cases — and the government’s strategy to contain them.

If Djokovic’s visa is canceled, his lawyers could go back to court to apply for an injunction that would prevent him from being forced to leave the country.

Sydney-based immigration lawyer Simon Jeans said if Djokovic’s visa were canceled, he would likely be held in immigration detention. Djokovic could apply for a bridging visa to compete in the tournament pending the appeal. The immigration department would have two business days to decide that application. If Djokovic were refused such a visa, an appeal would typically take weeks, Jeans said.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

Getty
0 Comments

The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
Getty
0 Comments

Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!