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2 Feb, 2022 19:59

Serb officials react to ‘doubt’ over Djokovic Covid tests

Reports questioning the tennis superstar's Covid results are invalid, Serbia's prosecutor's office insists
Serb officials react to ‘doubt’ over Djokovic Covid tests

A report claiming that research would "seem to suggest" Novak Djokovic's positive Covid test results were recorded at least nine days later than they showed has been dismissed by Serbian authorities.

Using the serial number on the positive tests submitted by Djokovic's lawyers during his high-profile legal bid to stay in Australia, German news site Der Spiegel and the BBC investigated why the world number one's initial positive test, on December 16, had a higher confirmation code than his negative test on December 22.

The tests formed a crucial part of Djokovic's evidence in court because he believed that he would receive a medical exemption to play without receiving a Covid vaccine at the Australian Open in January as a result of recovering from the virus the previous month.

The BBC produced a graph plotting the dates and confirmation codes it said it had obtained from tests carried out in labs in Serbia, appearing to conclude that the only 'outlier' that did not have a higher code corresponding to a later date was the one submitted by Djokovic.

The report said that other tests in the sample it had obtained from December 16 matched an expected pattern with confirmation numbers increasing chronologically, whereas Djokovic's fitted a timeline between December 25 and 28.

Alongside the allegations, which it claimed 'cast doubt' over the timing of the tests, the report added that the findings 'raise questions' over how a later positive test might have affected Djokovic's attempt to enter Australia.

In a statement five days after the report was published, Serbia's prosecutor's office is said by Blic to have responded to a criminal report that was filed at their Belgrade headquarters against unidentified persons for committing the criminal offense of forgery of a document.

The report is said to have stated that the accused created a forged document  showing PCR certificates which were later used by Djokovic for exemption from vaccination when entering Australia, as well as when appealing the decision to cancel the visa.

Acting upon the report, the Prosecutor's Office is said to have carried out checks by contacting Serbia's Ministry of Health in order to verify the accuracy of the data.

"In February, the Prosecutor's Office was informed by the Ministry of Health that inspections in the institutions of the Network Plan determined that the certificates on the results of testing for [the] virus indicated in the criminal report were authentic," the outlet quoted a statement from the Prosecutor's Office as saying.

"[That means] that by inspecting the electronic database... of tests performed on the presence of [Covid] for the person Novak Djokovic, [we] determined that he had been tested several times and that the certificates on the test results from December 16, 2021 and from December 22, 2021 are valid."

The statement is then said to conclude that the prosecution decided to reject the criminal report because no criminal act was involved.

Djokovic's visa was not canceled on the grounds of any suspicion over the validity of the tests.

The reigning champion was deported from the country because he had not been vaccinated after Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke's second attempt to cancel his paperwork succeeded.

The 34-year-old's biographer, Daniel Muksch, has now been widely reported to have said that Djokovic is on the verge of taking his Covid shots after watching familiar rival Rafael Nadal win the title in Melbourne in his absence.

"What you hear from his environment, I think he's getting vaccinated," Muksch is said to have told Austrian TV channel ServusTV.

"Maybe the final in Melbourne also contributed to that. Rafael Nadal's [record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title] is driving him, no question."

On Thursday, Djokovic is scheduled to meet one of his outspoken supporters, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, in Belgrade, where the national hero is expected to speak.

With reports rife that Djokovic could face similar struggles to compete throughout 2022 if he does not become vaccinated, a presenter on an Australian TV channel appeared to crow at the claims that the man ousted by the country's government may be about to take his shots. 

"We've done our job," they reacted. "We've sort of done our job and helped him see the light.

"No charge for that re-education, no problem at all. [Australian Open boss] Craig Tiley will be banging his head against the wall right now, poor guy."

Djokovic is expected to make his return to the tour at a tournament in Dubai starting on February 14.