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Did Djokovic lie about Covid test in Serbia? Report casts doubt on player’s claims

According to an investigation by ‘Der Spiegel’, Novak Djokovic’s claimed dates for his Covid tests don’t match up. He is now set to be deported from Australia after losing his appeal.

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New Delhi: Facing deportation from Australia, Novak Djokovic may have lied about his Covid test results from Serbia, according to an investigation by German news website Der Spiegel.  The unvaccinated tennis champion has now lost his last-ditch appeal and will be deported.

The allegedly positive PCR test — which Djokovic’s lawyers had presented in court as the player’s major argument for being allowed to stay in Australia —  performed at 1.05 pm Serbian time on 16 December, was meant to show that he had had Covid-19 and recovered before travelling to Australia. But Der Spiegel claims the test’s digital timestamp shows that it was done at 2.21 pm on 26 December. 

The timestamps are usually generated automatically a few minutes after the test results are entered into the relevant database. However, the investigation mentions that it’s also possible for a timestamp to be generated when the tested person downloads the results. 

The test results also have QR codes. Der Spiegel reports that when it scanned the code for Djokovic’s test Monday, the result said “test result Negative” — which would have “destroyed Djokovic’s case for being allowed into the country”. But when the investigators tried again an hour later, they got a positive result. 

The tennis star’s lawyers also presented a second, negative test to prove that he had recovered from Covid. This, they said, was taken on 22 December — which is confirmed by its digital timestamp, according to the investigation.

However, in the Serbian testing programme, each test has its own identification number. The number for the negative test result is 50,000 spots lower than the positive one. According to the investigation, this implies that the negative test was in fact “performed prior to the positive test and entered into the database”, contrary to what Djokovic’s lawyers claim.

Der Spiegel quotes experts from German digital collective zerforschung as saying, “Based on these pieces of evidence, the most plausible explanation is that the positive test result was added to the official Serbian database on the 26th of December, and not on the 16th.”

Neither Djokovic nor Serbian officials responded to Der Spiegel’s queries.

Djokovic’s name has been mired in controversy ever since he landed in Australia on 6 January to play in the Australian Open in Melbourne. His visa was first revoked shortly after his arrival that day, when his vaccination exemption was questioned by Australian Border Force officials, but he then won a legal battle on procedural grounds allowing him to stay in the country. Then, on Friday, his visa was revoked again, and he will now be deported after having lost his appeal Sunday.

Did Djokovic lie on declaration form?

The report says that Australian officials are also looking into the question of whether Djokovic lied on a travel declaration form that everyone must fill out before entering the country. One of the questions on the form is: “Have you travelled or will you travel in the 14 days prior to your flight to Australia?” The 34-year-old answered the question on 1 January by checking the “no” box.

However, according to The Guardian, Djokovic — who claims to have flown from Spain to Melbourne via Dubai — was seen playing tennis on the streets of Belgrade in an Instagram video from 26 December, which was later deleted. A Portuguese journalist also posted a photo on Dec. 25 of Djokovic together with the Serbian handball player Patar Djordjic in Belgrade. 

If he did travel from Belgrade to Spain before flying to Melbourne, “then he and his legal representative lied on the Australia Travel Declaration,” says the Der Spiegel report.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)


 

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