Australian tennis champion says he felt ‘trapped’ after being forced to take blood test in state that does not have medical exemption system
Australian tennis champion admits body didn’t recover in time after seeking treatment in Victoria
The Victorian sports minister says the state has not “blackmailed” a player with a request for a blood test.
Tennis Australia became embroiled in an ethical debate on Friday after announcing he would have to take a blood test before playing in a “wildcard” event that was being held at Melbourne Park in the leadup to next month’s Australian Open.
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The world No2 player, Novak Djokovic, called the mandatory testing arrangement “ridiculous”, saying his body had not recovered in time after taking treatment to a chest complaint last month.
Djokovic, who said he had to delay the birth of his second child by two days to cope with his recent calf injury, told the Melbourne Herald Sun: “It’s a bit shocking that you would be blacklisted and not allowed to play because you are sick. It makes no sense to me.”
The match was then called off just hours before play was scheduled to start but was rescheduled for Sunday.
On Saturday, the sports minister, John Eren, said he did not think Djokovic was unfairly blacklisted because the tennis association had made a decision based on clinical reasons.
“Having discussions with him [Djokovic] this morning and talking to his physiotherapist, it doesn’t sound like they have,” Eren told Fox Sports News. “If it is, it’s not one player, it’s a lot of players in different disciplines.”
Djokovic wants players to be given exemption-exempt treatment from drug testing “when circumstances and medical conditions allow”, Eren said.
He added: “I can understand why some people would say that he’s being blackmailed but he is at a different level.”
The New York Times reported on Friday that Djokovic had received “administrative, or non-therapeutic” assistance on two other occasions this year.
Tennis Victoria said it had acted on its own initiative to send Djokovic for a blood test on 29 July and would continue to do so on the regular intervals before special situations arise.
The association said it would respect players’ preferences on granting medical exemptions.