Thursday, 18 August, 2022
HomeOpinionPoVDjokovic right to be anti-vaxxer. Federer or Kohli didn't just wake up...

Djokovic right to be anti-vaxxer. Federer or Kohli didn’t just wake up one day as champions

An athlete's career isn't just all performance. One wrong move can end a career. Novak Djokovic is well within his right to oppose mandatory Covid-19 vaccine intake.

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In a Facebook chat with other Serbian sportspersons, Tennis star and current world’s number one male player Novak Djokovic expressed his reservations about mandatory intake of Covid-19 vaccine.

Djokovic said, “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.”

These comments triggered a debate over Djokovic’s perceived anti-vaxxer views in the middle of a pandemic that doesn’t have a cure. And his religious beliefs.

But people fail to understand how sacrosanct the body is for an athlete. Players earn their livelihood and their careers depend on how they maintain their bodies. An injury can cost a career. And inadvertent consumption of a banned substance through a medicine or vaccine can also similarly bring the same fate as intended doping does — disgrace and years of ban that keeps the player away from the sports circuit. Moreover, an allergy to any medicine could be counterproductive and still keep the player out of the game.

In a world where endorsements are based on image and performance, an athlete is well within his/her right to be sceptical of what they put into their body, pandemic or no pandemic.

Also read: Novak Djokovic says he doesn’t want to be ‘forced’ by someone to take Covid-19 vaccine

Building a body 

It’s not as though Djokovic, Roger Federer, Virat Kohli or Usain Bolt woke up as champions of their sports. It requires years of training, understanding your body and providing it with the adequate fuel to get stronger and quicker.

In 2010, Djokovic learnt that he was sensitive to gluten, which was also one of the reasons for his mid-match collapses and why he could not perform well. Changes in his diet, and removing gluten from it resulted in drastic changes in his career. The next year (2011) he recorded a 41-0 consecutive match win streak, had a record 70 wins to 6 losses, won three Grand Slams and racked up 10 ATP titles. Pete Sampras called it “one of the greatest achievements in the history of sports.”

This only goes to show what difference a person’s diet can make to their performance and career. As an athlete, their body is their wealth. Which is why you have a team of physical trainers, nutritionists, physiotherapists and even mental therapists who work on and build a player.

Maria Sharapova was banned for two years, after she failed a drug test for a supplement she was taking for close to 10 years because she had a magnesium deficiency. The substance was not earlier banned but was later added to the list of prohibited substances. Similarly, Richard Gasquet faced a two-year ban, which was overturned after he tested positive for cocaine as he had kissed someone who had consumed the drug.

An athlete’s career isn’t just all performance. One wrong move can end a career. Therefore, someone like Djokovic, who is at the peak of his career, has complete right to be sceptical of vaccines — especially if he has to take something as a precautionary measure.

Also read: Wimbledon cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic, first time since World War II


The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 2.6 million people across the world and killed more than 1.8 lakh people. With no cure to the disease, a vaccine is the need of the hour to resume normalcy, which includes sporting events. Michael Nobbs, former Indian hockey team coach, said that a vaccine is the real answer and cricketer Suresh Raina agreed with him, saying players’ safety is not guaranteed unless there is a vaccine.


Many have called Djokovic an anti-vaxxer (a person opposed to vaccination) and termed his statement “irresponsible” in the middle of a global pandemic. But Djokovic was speaking about himself. He did not go on television and said vaccines are bad (like a certain television anchor demonising people). Sure, he is in a position to influence many. But he wouldn’t be in that position had he not built and trained his body in the way he deemed fit.

With trials on course, a vaccine for Covid-19 will be ready by mid-2021, according to experts. Until it’s available and widely proved to be successful with clear evidence of no side-effects, an athlete, or any common person for that matter, is justified to air his doubts on getting vaccinated.

Views are personal.

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  1. The author of this article has not researched the extent and potential harm of Djokovic’s anti science stance. And the way the article talks about his winning streak after changing his dier shows how they clearly confuse correlation with causation. A common mistake of the scientifically illiterate.
    Djokovic is anti-vax and his wife promotes 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory. He self-diagnosed his ‘gluten sensitivity’ by pressing a slice of bread against his abdomen. He believes in telepathy, telekinesis and levitation and engages in paid promotion of fake medicine. He claims that the “power of prayer” can purify polluted water (just in case you needed a crystal clear example of the harmful potential of this kind of magical thinking) In 2017, Djokovic insisted a persistent elbow injury should be treated by holistic methods. In the end he reluctantly had the necessary surgery and apparently “cried for three days straight” at his ‘failure’.
    Unfortunately it is unlikely that Novak Djokovic or his wife will experience any scientific epiphany after testing positive for COVID-19. It is much more likely that they will continue their child-endangering anti-vaccine stance, attribute their infection to sinister forces and their recovery to whatever incantations, crystals or snake oils they may have been chanting, wearing, drinking or selling as they recovered. I wish them well but I despise their wilful and pernicious ignorance.

  2. I’m surprised this channel has run this story. It is an extremely ignorant assessment of a vaccination. A vaccine is not likely to cause any adverse reaction that will impact his ‘ body built over the years’ in any way and you’re really such an imbecile you think if it shows up in a doping test , it will be just his problem? It will obviously be accounted for. Check your facts with a medical expert before you write anything . Everybody wants to play a doctor and a fitness expert these days. Any channel/association/ magazine that runs a story like this is should be held accountable on grounds of spreading misinformation and affecting public opinion with medical inaccurate information. He may be a great tennis player and his anti vaxxer status is his call but it doesn’t warrant justification. This article should be immediately taken down with a post that apologises for spread the wormg information at the time of a global pandemic and intentionally causing harm. I’m serious. Take it down or I tweet about this and tag you. The world should know the crap you are pulling in the name of media

  3. You say “But people fail to understand how sacrosanct the body is for an athlete. Players earn their livelihood and their careers depend on how they maintain their bodies.”

    Precisely! Djokovic’s health is important, but what of other tennis players? His refusal to vaccinate endangers the livelihood and health of every player he plays against, not to mention auxiliary staff and other workers on tour.

    I’m all for free choice – but not when your choice adversely impacts others significantly.
    This virus has killed hundreds of thousands of people already… and Djokovic just tested positive to it.

    You may be a world no one tennis player but you need to learn the more important skills of being a responsible and considerate human being. Well wishes and a speedy recovery for you and your wife.

  4. This article is so stupidly written and so unscientific that I am surprised The Print allowed this to be published.

  5. Madam, stop thinking that what he said is correct. I am sorry i cannot agree with you. You are equating vaccines with dope or a banned drug which is completely stupid. Yes athletes do require a lot of nutritional and physical investment in their body to reach wherever they are today. One physical injury can end their career but so can a disease. If its mild it wont have much of an impact but if its serious or life threatening the athlete can be out of commission for months or even a year. Unfortunately the disease may also take his/her life.
    Dont advocate such stupid views made out on the basis of ignorance. Even if your views are personal it exposes you as well. He is quite lucky and privileged to make statements like these. I hope he understands his folly and does not make such stupid statements in future.

  6. I stand with Djokovic. My body my choice. Some didn’t bother to read the article. Vaccines are not tested as extensively as one might assume. For example, if you read the box insert they are not tested for possibility of causing cancer among other things. And many here are assuming that all science is good science. There is junk science. Everyone assumes vaccines “only” have “minor” side effects. Is that why the vaccine trust has paid out millions of dollars to people for vaccine injuries? Do your research before you trust anyone or criticize blindly. No one is forcing you to have a procedure. Forcing someone into any treatment is considered bodily assault. And if someone really wanted to frame djokovic for any sort of doping, a tempered vaccine would be the perfect way. He is rightfully suspicious. Because saying it happened like that, No one would believe him . I fully support him. He doesn’t need your support, he can decide and has the freedom to decide for himself.

  7. I am in complete disagreement with the author. Obviously, she is neither a scientist nor a medical expert and she has not taken the opinion of one. Djokovic also does not seem to have discussed it with his doctors, the same doctors who identified his Gluten sensitivity.
    The author also seems to forget the fact that Djokovic lives in a country where there is a 5 years compulsory military service. Many tennis greats including Ivan Lendl etc have done this service. Doesn’t military service put the life & health of an athlete at risk? Then how does a vaccine put it at more risk?
    Madam Revathi, articles such as this are what show your ignorance, arrogance and laziness. Just because you are good at writing and communicating is not enough to call yourself a journalist. A high degree of rational thought as well as fairplay is required instead of hypocrisy.
    That is when you are a true journalist. Otherwise, you are just at the other end of the spectrum to Arnab Goswami, pushing your own agenda.

  8. Seriously, this is journalism? Firstly its not like a vaccine is some kind of dope. It will be taken by everyone so no chance of failing a dope test there. Also when a Vaccine is not yet avaiable how can you say that a vaccine might harm the body. Moreever the journalist who wrote this article has not done her research properly, Djokovic had an elbow problem the last time there was a slump in his performance and he wanted it to heal without any surgery by rest and massages. That was one of the reason Andre Agassi parted ways with Novak. Finally he had to go for surgery and after surgery he says he cried for 3 days as he felt “he had failed himself”. So his reasons for not taking a vaccine are that he believes in a natural way of living and natural way of healing. I am as big a fan of Novak as anyone can be. Knowing about these above things refently made me happy that my idol is a human afterall with flaws but makes me sad thinking that had he not been so eccentric and had surgery on his elbow earlier and not wasted 2 years there would have been daylight between him and Fedal now

  9. Absolutely, it’s hilarious to see people vouching for individuality and choice in times like these. This isn’t some privacy related thing ,it’s a f’in vaccine to protect you. There is no malintention going on behind the scenes to harm you.

    If you don’t take vaccine in this case you are a grave danger to society in the form of a spreader, can’t imagine the author advocating for individual prefereoin times like these when community is at risk. It’s time to come together and do whatever needs to be done instead of going about on your own way like business as usual.

  10. Well he should keep his views to himself then since he is actually in a position to influence others. This isn’t a game, sports are being cancelled due to this, if you refuse vaccines then they will be delayed even further, what will he play then?
    If a lot of people hold thoughts similar to him then we are in grave danger especially now with a raging pandemic.
    So no thank you keep your views to yourself, don’t argue against science. Vaccines are developed after numerous trials , to go against them is like ditching science and research

  11. A vaccine having a major side effect is extremely rare. And if there even is a side effect to the vaccine, it will commonly be a small wheal at the site of injection which forms a scab and falls off or mild fever. No one is asking him to take the vaccine literally before the match. He just needs to take it once and it will give him immunity for a long period (in some cases a lifetime). By not taking the vaccine he poses as a potential host, and more importantly, a potential spreader. Please read up on the re-emergence of Measles thanks to anti vaxxers.

  12. Seriously? The defense provided by the author of this article is quite bad. And he WILL end up influencing many people. The least he could have done is not said what he said in public. He as an individual has a right over his body. But publicly saying so will only give force to the anti-vaxxers. The world is already suffering from a pandemic. We dont want an article that gives defense to irresponsible statements by celebrities especially in areas of health.

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