Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic on Wednesday admitted meeting a journalist when he knew he had Covid-19, describing it as an “error of judgement”.
Djokovic also conceded he submitted a false declaration to the Australian government about his travel history between flying to Melbourne, though he blamed it on his agent.
The comments were in a statement posted to Instagram aimed at addressing the controversies surrounding his efforts to play at the Australian Open while being unvaccinated.
Despite the admissions, Djokovic insisted other reports about him appearing in public following his positive test for Covid-19 as “misinformation”.
He said the reports of his public appearances after his claimed infection were “very hurtful” to his family.
Full text of Djokovic’s statement on Instagram:
STATEMENT BY NOVAK DJOKOVIC 12 January 2022
I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to my positive PCR COVID test result.
This is misinformation which needs to be corrected, particularly in the interest of alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia, and to address matters which are very hurtful and concerning to my family.
I want to emphasise that I have tried very hard to ensure the safety of everyone and my compliance with testing obligations.
I attended a basketball game in Belgrade on 14 December after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive with COVID 19. Despite having no COVID symptoms, I took a rapid antigen test on 16 December which was negative, and out of an abundance of caution, also took an official and approved PCR test on that same day.
The next day I attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children and took a rapid antigen test before going to the event, and it was negative.
I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test result until after that event.
The next day, on 18 December I was at my tennis centre in Belgrade to fulfil a long-standing commitment for a L’Equipe interview and photoshoot. I cancelled all other events except for the L’Equipe interview.
I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken.
While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.
On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf as I told immigration officials on my arrival - and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia. This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur. Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.
While I felt it was important to address and clarify misinformation I will not be making any further comment out of utmost respect for the Australian Government and their authorities and the current process.
It is always an honour and a privilege to play in the Australian Open. The Australian Open is much-loved by players, fans and the community, not just in Victoria and in Australia, but around the globe, and I just want to have the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world and perform before one of the best crowds in the world.
The 34-year-old world number one entered Australia last week with a vaccine exemption due to a positive test for Covid-19 on December 16.
The following day, however, he appeared without a mask at the launch of a Serbian stamp bearing his image and at an event in Belgrade for young tennis players.
Djokovic said he only received the positive results of the PCR test for Covid-19 infection on December 17, after the youth tennis event.
He made no mention of the stamp ceremony.
The player said he had a negative rapid antigen test on December 16 and then had the PCR test out of an “abundance of caution”.
The following day, he took a second rapid antigen test, which was also negative, before going to the children’s tennis event.
“I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test until after that event,” he said.
But Djokovic admitted that he also went ahead with an interview and photoshoot with French sports newspaper L’Equipe on December 18.
“I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” he said.
“On reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.”
Australian media have also focused heavily on the accuracy of Djokovic’s travel declaration, reportedly filled out before he flew in from Spain.
A copy of his declaration showed a tick in the box to confirm he had not and would not travel in the 14 days before landing in Australia on January 5.
But the player had reportedly been in Serbia before Spain.
“On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf,” Djokovic said on Instagram.
“My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia.
“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate.”
More to follow...
(With inputs from AFP)
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