Novak Djokovic Responds to COVID Test Tampering Allegations

Novak Djokovic has denied being aware of any attempts to tamper with his COVID-19 test results ahead of the Australian Open in a new interview.

Djokovic, the 20-time Grand Slam champion, was deported from Australia in January after the country's government canceled his visa amid a political firestorm over his vaccination status.

The tennis star said he had obtained a medical exemption to play in the tournament because he had recovered from a COVID-19 infection in December, 2021.

But doubts were raised about the infection, which occurred in time to exempt him from a rule that barred the unvaccinated from entering Australia. Several media outlets reported on discrepancies in Djokovic's COVID-19 test certificates that were submitted by his lawyers to a federal court in Australia.

The serial number for Djokovic's positive PCR test on December 16, 2021 appeared out of sync with a sample of tests from his native Serbia around that time, the BBC reported. The serial number was also higher than for Djokovic's second test, which was negative, from six days later.

Djokovic publicly confirmed he was not vaccinated against COVID-19 for the first time, in an interview with the BBC. He said no when asked if he knew of any attempts to tamper with either of his test results.

"I understand that there is a lot of criticism, and I understand that people come out with different theories on how lucky I was or how convenient it is," he said.

"But no-one is lucky and convenient of getting COVID. Millions of people have and are still struggling with COVID around the world. So I take this very seriously, I really don't like someone thinking I've misused something or in my own favor, in order to, you know, get a positive PCR test and eventually go to Australia."

He said his request for a medial exemption had been made anonymously and was accepted by two independent Australian panels. However, a separate travel declaration had included an error.

Djokovic said the error was "not deliberately made," but added it was not the reason for his deportation.

"What people probably don't know is that I was not deported from Australia on the basis that I was not vaccinated, or I broke any rules or that I made an error in my visa declaration," he said.

"The reason why I was deported from Australia was because the Minister for Immigration used his discretional right to cancel my visa based on his perception that I might create some anti-vax sentiment in the country or in the city, which I completely disagree with."

But Djokovic distanced himself from anti-vaccine campaigners who hailed him as a hero. "Everyone has the right to choose to act, or say whatever they feel is appropriate for them and I have never said that I am part of that movement," he said.

In the interview, Djokovic also said he is prepared to skip the French Open and Wimbledon if vaccination against COVID-19 is a requirement. "That is the price that I am willing to pay," he said.

Djokovic insisted that he is not opposed to vaccines, and had them as a child, but believes in "the freedom to choose what you put into your body."

"The principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else," he said.

He said he doesn't have enough information to get the vaccine as things stand, but is open to the possibility of being vaccinated in the future "because we are all trying to find collectively, a best possible solution to end COVID."

Tennis player Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic speaks with Aleksandar Vucic President of Serbia on February 3, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia. The tennis star has denied being aware of any attempts to tamper with his COVID-19 test results ahead of the Australian Open Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images