The German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday that it had found evidence suggesting that someone had tampered with PCR test results showing tennis star Novak Djokovic had tested positive for Chinese coronavirus on December 16.
Djokovic, the top-ranked men’s tennis player, is in the middle of a political firestorm in Australia after an attempt to enter the country failed catastrophically, resulting in his detention in a migrant facility for nearly a week. Australia has mandated that all foreigners entering the country present proof of vaccination or proof of a medical exemption to the vaccine requirement, such as a PCR test proving the person in question tested positive for Chinese coronavirus within the past six months.
Djokovic has pronounced himself “opposed to vaccinations” in the past and refused to disclose his vaccination status prior to traveling to Australia. Shortly before leaving, Djokovic published a post on social media announcing he had received a medical exemption to the vaccine requirement, but Australian Border Force detained him immediately upon arrival on the grounds that his documentation proving the exemption was invalid.
Transcripts of his interview with Australian Border Force upon his arrival in Melbourne this month revealed that Djokovic attempted to use a positive PCR test to trigger a medical exemption to the vaccine mandate.
A judge has since ruled that Border Force’s detention of the player was invalid and ordered Djokovic’s immediate release. He is currently training to play at the Australian Open – a prestigious tournament he was won more than any other male player – but Australia’s Immigration Ministry has threatened to abruptly deport him at any time.
In an investigation published Tuesday, Der Spiegel revealed that attempts to pull up the results of the PCR test Djokovic reportedly used to enter Australia yielded dubious results.
“The PCR test was performed at 1:05 p.m. on Dec. 16, and seven hours later, the positive result was returned,” Der Spiegel reported. “The test results also include QR codes, and when DER SPIEGEL scanned the QR code for the test from Dec. 16, things got strange.”
“At 1:19 p.m. on Monday (CET), the result from the scan was ‘test result Negative.’ Such a result would have destroyed Djoković’s case for being allowed into the country,” the German newspaper asserted. “About an hour later, though, at 2:33 p.m. on Monday, a second scan of the QR code returned a different result: ‘Test result Positive.'”
Der Spiegel also attempted to obtain the negative coronavirus test that Djokovic’s team reportedly offered the Australian government as proof that Djokovic was no longer contagious. There, too, the timestamps did not align, the newspaper alleged, suggesting that the “positive” test was actually entered into the Serbian government database on December 26, not December 16, and the negative test was from the date that the Djokovic team claimed the positive test was from.
“The number for Djoković’s positive test, allegedly taken on Dec. 16, is 7371999. But for the negative test taken on Dec. 22, the identification number is 50,000 spots lower,” Der Spiegel claimed. Serbia reportedly documented 50,000 tests during the timeframe in question, suggesting the allegedly later test occurred first.
Should Australian authorities find evidence that allows them to conclude Djokovic’s positive coronavirus test was fraudulent, they could deport him immediately. The Australian Open begins on Monday.
The validity of Djokovic’s positive PCR test would also inform Djokovic’s public behavior on the week of December 16. Djokovic appeared at a children’s event on December 17, the day after the alleged positive test, and met with a journalist from the French magazine L’Equipe on December 18.
Djokovic addressed the concerns regarding his potential exposure, particularly of children, to the virus in an extensive statement posted to his Instagram account on Wednesday.
“I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to my positive PCR COVID [Chinese coronavirus] test result,” Djokovic wrote. “This is misinformation which needs to be corrected, particularly in the interest of alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia, and to address matters which are very hurtful and concerning to my family.”
Djokovic asserted that he did not receive positive test results until after his children’s event appearance. He claimed to be aware of the positive test result, however, prior to the L’Equipe interview and called his presence there “an error of judgment,” without apologizing to the magazine or the journalist he exposed.
The Djokovic statement also addressed the fact that documents given the Australian authorities suggested that he had not traveled to third countries prior to his flight from Spain to Melbourne through Dubai. Djokovic admitted to attending events in Belgrade, Serbia, in the interim and blamed his agent for the false declaration.
“My agent sincerely apologises for the administration mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,” Djokovic wrote. “This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur.”