Australia Feared Rising Anti-Vax Sentiment if Djokovic Stayed

An Australian court said revoking Novak Djokovic’s visa was reasonable as the tennis star might have inspired anti-vaccine sentiment in the country.

The world No. 1 tennis player was set to participate in the Australian Open this month, but immigration authorities canceled his visa, citing “health and good order” grounds.

Djokovic was first detained by border officials when he arrived in Australia in early January. His visa was canceled back then, but the tennis player challenged that decision and won the legal case.

On January 14, immigration minister Alex Hawke stepped in and canceled Djokovic’s visa again.

The court said it supported the minister’s decision as the tennis player’s opposition to vaccines was well known and “an iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages.”

The three-judge panel wrote in its formal decision that Djokovic could especially encourage the young and the impressionable “to emulate him” and noted that he could influence not only anti-vaccination activists but also people who are hesitant to get jabbed.

The athlete’s legal team said the minister’s decision was not based on facts, arguing that Djokovic had never asked people not to get vaccinated. However, the panel rejected such claims, stating that he “had for over a year chosen not to be vaccinated since vaccines became available.”

The judges also said that the minister was concerned about reports from anti-vaccine groups that portrayed Djokovic as a “hero and icon of freedom of choice.”

Australian authorities deported Djokovic following the court’s decision, and the tennis player returned home to his native Serbia on Tuesday.

Later, The Sun newspaper reported that the tennis star was considering a million-pound lawsuit against the Australian government for alleged “ill treatment.” The amount would include what Djokovic could have earned had he competed as expected.

But the player’s lawyers declined to respond to requests for comment on the newspaper’s report.

In another development, it has been revealed that Djokovic is a majority shareholder in QuantBioRes, a Danish biotech company looking to treat Covid-19 without vaccines. According to the company register, the tennis player and his wife bought an 80 percent stake in the firm in 2020 -they owned 40.8% and 32.9%, respectively.

CEO Ivan Loncarevic confirmed Djokovic’s investment in QuantBioRes, which is developing a peptide that prevents the novel coronavirus from infecting human cells. The company expects to start clinical trials in the UK this summer.