Sports

Novak Djokovic’s visa canceled again by Australia

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credit…Mark Baker/The Associated Press

On Friday, the Australian authorities revoked Novak Djokovic, the Serbian tennis star, his visa for the second time, The latest stunning shot in a lengthy drama over his refusal to vaccinate against Covid-19.

Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, said in a statement that he had canceled Djokovic’s visa on grounds of “health and good order”, adding that it was in the public interest.

Hawke did the fourth job days After a legal victory, Djokovic freed him from immigration detention, where he had been held since arriving at Melbourne airport last week.

The minister did not provide further details about his decision to cancel the visa, other than to say the Australian government is committed to protecting the country’s borders during the pandemic.

It was not clear what would happen next, with the Australian Open three days away. Djokovic could return to court seeking to overturn the decision, but legal experts said he may have little chance of success after winning the first round in court on narrow procedural grounds.

University of Sydney law professor Mary Crook said it would be “very, very difficult” for Djokovic to win any appeal. “The rules of natural justice and procedures do not apply,” she said. So the only way he can appeal is to prove that there is no basis of public interest on which to cancel the visa.

A federal investigation led by Hook revealed that Djokovic provided false information about documents he provided to border officials when he tried to enter the country last week.

Those documents did not say that Djokovic, who lives in Monte Carlo, had traveled between Serbia and Spain in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia.

In a social media post on Wednesday, Djokovic acknowledged the misrepresentations and addressed questions about his movements in the days before and after he tested positive for coronavirus on December 16. This test result allowed him to obtain a waiver from state health officials at Victoria’s play at the Australian Open.

Djokovic’s statement is read as a desperate plea for forgiveness and an explanation for irresponsible behavior by a star athlete unaccustomed to accountability. He said a member of his support team made a “human error” when filling out his papers. He also said that he made the poor decision to give an interview and take a picture with a French sports publication after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Franck Ramilla, a reporter for French sports daily L’Equipe, wrote this week that when he gave the interview on December 18, he did not know that Djokovic had recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

credit…Lukas Coch/EPA, via Shutterstock

Djokovic said he did not yet know he had tested positive when he attended a tennis event on December 17 in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, where he presented prizes to children. But his positive test record shows that he took the test at 1:05 pm on December 16 and got the positive result seven hours later.

“I just want to have the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world and perform in front of one of the best fans in the world,” Djokovic said in the post.

Earlier this week, it appeared that Djokovic would be able to do so, although he will likely be the only unvaccinated player in the men’s tournament. On Thursday, he was installed as the top seed in the men’s division.

On Monday afternoon, a judge found that Djokovic had been treated unfairly upon his late arrival on January 5 at Melbourne airport, where he was questioned for hours and denied the opportunity to promise to contact his lawyer or Australian Open officials.

The judge ordered the return of Djokovic’s visa, freeing him from the hotel for refugees and asylum seekers where he was held for five days and paving the way for him to compete for a record 21 Grand Slam title.

credit…Lauren Elliott/Reuters

Australian tennis officials had granted Djokovic the exemption from vaccination, in consultation with state officials, to play in the tournament starting Monday in Melbourne. But border officials rescinded his visa with the support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying that Djokovic was still subject to a requirement that everyone entering the country be fully vaccinated.

The court ruling did not end the case, but rather turned its focus to supporting documents for Djokovic, the legality of his coronavirus test and basic questions about what Djokovic knew about his diagnosis and when he learned of it.

Legally, Immigration Minister Hawke can revoke a visa for personal reasons or if the records are found to be false, or if he believes the visa recipient poses a health or safety risk. Hawke made his decision because Australia is in the midst of its worst bout with the coronavirus.

Mike Ives Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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