Jaala Pulford, a Victorian government minister, said there was a “blind” assessment procedure that had taken place, with no one knowing anyone’s identity, and that Novak Djokovic was one of 26 tennis-related people who had requested for an exemption.
She said, “Novak isn’t coming to play the Australian Open [with an exemption] because he’s the biggest tennis star of them all,
“He’s coming because he has been able to demonstrate through this process that he has an eligibility under the rules that apply to everybody else in the country.”
Two independent boards are in charge of reviewing his application, and neither of them knows who they’re working on the application.
“They’re considered by not one doctor that you know, but six that you don’t,” Ms. Pulford said.
According to Craig Tiley, CEO of Tennis Australia, the Serbian athlete came to Australia quickly, and added that the tennis superstar’s application had been evaluated by two independent health authorities and anonymous approval.
‘Novak applied for a medical exemption which was granted by a panel of experts,’ he said.
While the names of the other players and coaching staff were not revealed, Tiley was keen to emphasize that Djokovic received no “special treatment.”
Tiley said, “Professional players do not have to reveal their personal or medical information… the grounds are the same for everyone.
“As an organization, we (Tennis Australia) abided by the conditions, and the decision was left in the hands of medical experts”.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) and the Independent Medical Exemption Review Board, both formed by the Victorian Department of Health, conducted a review procedure that resulted in Djokovic’s approved waiver.
Anyone attending the Australian Open without getting vaccinated must first ask for an exemption with Tennis Australia, according to a protocol established late last year.
TA has formed an independent panel to analyze those applications that have had their personal information removed so that the panelists are unaware of the applications they are assessing.
According to Carolyn Broderick, Tennis Australia’s medical director, the group comprises experts in immunology, infectious illnesses, and general health.
All personal information, including name, age, and country of origin, was removed from the documentation given to this panel.
“We felt confident that the panels didn’t even know if these people were players, whether they were other player support, people, or partners,” Dr. Broderick said.
Only 26 persons applied for a vaccination exemption out of almost 3,500 athletes, support teams, and other employees attempting to enter Australia.
Any application that passes TA’s independent panel evaluation will subsequently be evaluated by a separate health Victoria review panel.
Djokovic’s application was authorized after confirming that he had not tested positive for Covid-19 in the previous six months.
Djokovic’s vaccination status is unknown, but the 34-year-old indicated in April 2020 that he opposes obligatory vaccinations.
“Personally, I am not pro-vaccines,” he said, “I would not like it for someone to compel me to be vaccinated so I can travel.”
Tiley stated that he would encourage Djokovic to be forthright about the exemption’s rationale.
“I think it’s the right thing to do and I think it provides everyone with comfort and then maybe takes the heat out of the argument.”
Djokovic will go to restaurants, events, and places just like everyone else who is completely vaccinated.
He won’t have to quarantine upon arrival, either.
Some tennis fans and sports journalists were outraged by Tennis Australia’s decision to exempt Djokovic for medical reasons.
The Australian Open puts tennis players through significantly more rigorous testing than the general population.
Every day, players must take a quick antigen test, and they must also do the supervised test three times during their first 5-7 days here.
Djokovic will not be quarantined for two weeks when he arrives in Australia, with the Australian Open starting on Monday, January 17.