Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Djokovic medical exemption does not pass the smell test

Notoriously anti-vaccine tennis star Novak Djokovic has been issued a medical exemption from receiving the COVID-19 vaccinations, which should allow him to attend the Australian Open later this month. This comes just days after he was apparently denied a medical exemption.

Djokovic has always refused to confirm his vaccination status (read, "not vaccinated"), and has not been shy about his anti-vaccination stance. To now receive a medical exemption unequivacably confirms his vaccination status as "unvaccinated", but the question remains on what grounds.

Australia's medical exemption rules describe in great detail what would be required to allow a vaccination exemption on medical grounds, and the most likely scenario is that either he has suffered inflammatory cardiac illness in the last three months (not very likely), or that he has contracted COVID-19 within the last six months. It's known that he caught the virus way back in the summer of 2020, but my reading of these rules is that he would need to have had it in the last six months to qualify for the exemption (certainly, the virus from a year and a half ago was a very different beast to what we are facing now, so that makes sense).

Given Djokovic's attitudes in the past, to not come clean and explain the basis for his exemption is just going to stoke controversy and suspicion. He is already the tennis star that people love to hate, but maybe he is OK with that. Many Australians and healthcare experts are deeply suspicious and cynical about the "exemption", and even the Australian Prime Minister has waded into the fray

Did the Australian Open organization blink, and cave to commercial pressure? Is this more of a "VIP exemption" than a "medical exemption"? I certainly hope that the media hold Djokovic's proverbial feet to the fire, and don't give him or the Australian Open organization an easy pass on this, because this decision definitely does not pass the smell test.


Oh, I'm loving this. Australian immigration officials at Melbourne airport have ruled that Djokovic's travel visa does not allow for exemptions for unvaccinated applicants, and that he "failed to provide the appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements for Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled". He was questioned for several hours, has now been detained, and will not be allowed to remain in the country. He may even face the prospect of a three ban from the country.

I guess it was a "VIP exemption" after all. The Australian Open organization will probably have a lot of explaining to do. Way to go, Australia!


After a brief court reprieve earlier this week, Djokovic has had his Australian visa cancelled for a second time. Australian Health Minister Alex Hawke on grounds of "health and good order" and "in the public interest", meaning that Djokovic could still be deported before the Australian Open competition even starts, and indeed could be banned from the country for three years.

After a week of protests in Australia and Serbia, and increasingly catty comments from some fellow tennis players, Djokovic again faces the prospect of detention and more court cases, and his legal team is again gearing up for action (I wonder if any other tennis professional has a legal team?) While Djokovic himself has been careful not to come out as a confirmed anti-vaxxer, other anti-vax campaigners are jumping on his bandwagon, and the Twitter hashtag #StandWithDjokovic has been very active on social media.


It took a while, but justice is finally served! Djokovic is denied entry to Ausralia, the Serbian president is apoplectic, and most regular people (not to mention Rafael Nadal!) are happy.

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