Tennis Australia pleaded with the Federal Government to look at Novak Djokovic’s medical certificate
Embattled Tennis Australia boss comes out swinging at border bureaucrats – as bombshell document reveals he begged the government to examine Novak Djokovic’s exemption WEEKS before he stepped on a plane
Tennis Australia asked the government to review medical exemptions weeks ago
Novak Djokovic had his visa revoked on Thursday and could be deported
The world No.1 is mounting a court fight to stay and compete in Australian Open
Tennis Australia’s embattled boss has hit out at border bureaucrats over the Novak Djokovic visa saga – saying there was too much conflicting information over entry requirements.
Speaking on Sunday, Craig Tiley addressed the 34-year-old tennis champion’s visa plight, publicly insisting the sporting body hadn’t deceived players seeking medical exemptions and adding he ‘would like to see him play the Australian Open‘.
His comments come as leaked documents reveal Tennis Australia pleaded with the Federal Government to review Djokovic’s Covid medical exemption certificate several weeks ago, long before he boarded a plane.
World tennis No.1 Novak Djokovic (pictured with partner Jelena) is mounting a legal challenge to avoid being kicked out of the country after his visa was cancelled on Thursday
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said there was ‘plenty of conflicting information’ about Covid exemptions (pictured with Djokovic in 2015)
Tiley said TA had remained in weekly contact with all levels of government ‘to ensure we were doing the right thing and we were on the right process with these exemptions’.
‘There was plenty of contradictory information, plenty of conflicting information and we were constantly seeking clarity from day one to ensure that one, we did the right thing and two, we were able to bring the players into the country,’ Tiley said.
The Serbian star has been in immigration detention in Melbourne since Thursday morning after having his visa cancelled by the federal government.
The leaked documents show Tennis Australia corresponded with multiple government departments including Home Affairs in November asking if it could provide an advanced copy of the certificate for review in an effort to avoid a situation such as the current debacle being played out.
The request was denied with the Department of Sport writing back: ‘Health and Home Affairs are unable to provide or review certificates. Certificates are reviewed at check in’.
Supporters of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic wait outside the Park Hotel, used as an immigration detention hotel where Djokovic is confined in Melbourne (pictured)
Tennis Australia pleaded the Federal Government if they could provide an advanced copy of Djokovic’s medical exemption for review weeks before he boarded a flight (pictured: his supporters in Melbourne on Sunday)
‘We are not migration experts, we want someone who is to make that assessment,’ Tiley told The Herald Sun.
‘We would ask the questions. We’ve also been told the medical exemption process is a state responsibility, and they will do it against the federal guidelines.
He added that he had confirmed with the Victorian government that the players seeking exemptions would be allowed into Australia.
The world No.1 is set to go to Federal Court for a hearing on Monday to determined if he can remain in the country and compete for a history-making 21st major title.
Medical exemptions based on someone having contracted Covid within the last six months are allowed to bypass state quarantine.
Much of the confusion for Tennis Australia, Djokovic and a number of other players appears to be around the different processes for exemptions to enter the country on a visa – which is overseen by federal border officials.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews (pictured) pleaded with a federal court on Saturday night to adjourn the case two days until Wednesday – a submission that was dismissed
The letter to Tennis Australia from the Department of Sport states that an exemption can be granted with a medical certificate that ‘indicates a person is unable to be vaccinated because of a medical condition’.
But another letter, an advisor to the chief medical officer of Australia says that: ‘Medical exemptions from vaccination will be at the discretion of the state or territory so it would probably be good to touch base with the state of arrival earlier rather than later’.
‘All the information we had at the time, the knowledge we had at the time, was supplied to players.
‘We’re not going to lay the blame on anyone. There’s much contradictory information … it’s because of the changing environment.’
Djokovic’s court fight to remain in the country and defend his Australian Open title and reign in Melbourne for a 10th time is set to go ahead on Monday after a late bid by federal government lawyers to delay the case until Wednesday.
His lawyers will argue that he met the criteria for a temporary exemption under Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines and that he was denied procedural fairness during the decision to revoke his visa.
Novak Djokovic is being held in immigration detention in a Melbourne hotel following a marathon interrogation by border officials (pictured: supporters gather outside)
Djokovic, who is likely to present to the hearing virtually, could be cross-examined by both the judge and the government’s barrister.
How he responds will be crucial after documents were released by the Federal Court on Saturday, showing the Serb contracted COVID-19 on December 16 and was free of symptoms before he arrived in Australia.
Eyebrows were raised when pictures then surfaced of Djokovic attending public events, indoors, unmasked and with children in the days that followed his positive test confirmation.
On December 16, Djokovic (pictured centre at the back) posed with dozens of children at a PR event with the Tennis Association of Belgrade, the day of the purported positive PCR test
A leaked TA document to players also indicated the deadline for medical exemption applications was December 10, meaning Djokovic’s ensuing positive test appeared to be his only avenue to a last-minute green light.
A vocal opponent of vaccine mandates, Djokovic had previously declined to reveal his vaccination status or reason for seeking a medical exemption for sidestepping Australia’s vaccine rules.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt, asked about the Djokovic furore at a media conference on Sunday, declined to comment since it was before the court, but noted that several other people involved in the tournament had their visas revoked.
Czech player Renata Voracova, who was detained in the same detention hotel as Djokovic and had her visa revoked after issues with her vaccine exemption, left the country without challenging her status, the Czech Foreign Ministry said.
Djokovic will go to court on Monday in an attempt to stay in the country and compete in the Australian Open (members of the local Serbian community in Melbourne on Monday)