Novak Djokovic has said he would rather miss out on participating in future tennis competitions than be forced to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying that “is the price I am willing to pay.”
In an interview with the BBC, the tennis pro, who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, was asked if he was willing to sacrifice being able to play in future tournaments such as Wimbledon and the French Open due to his stance on the vaccines.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” Djokovic said.
However, the sportsman sought to distance himself from the anti-vax movement, stating that his decision not to get the shots came down to his job role as an athlete and the fact that he is conscious of everything he puts into his body.
“I was never against vaccination,” he said, “I understand that globally, everyone is trying to put a big effort into handling this virus and seeing, hopefully, an end soon to this virus and vaccination was probably the biggest effort that was made, probably, half of the planet was vaccinated.”
“But I’ve always represented and supported the freedom to chose what you put in your body and for me, that is essential,” he said.
“For me, as an elite professional athlete I have always carefully reviewed and assessed everything that comes in, from the supplements, the food, the water that I drink or sports drinks, anything really that comes into my body as a fuel,” Djokovic continued.
“Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine as of today.”
However, Djokovic, who has won the French Open twice and Wimbledon six times said the decision, said he is open-minded about getting the vaccine in the future because “we are all trying to find, collectively, a best possible solution to end COVID.”
The tennis pro added that he understands “the consequences of my decision,” one of which was being unable to play in Australia.
“I was prepared not to go,” he said. “I understand not being vaccinated today, I am unable to travel to most tournaments. That is the price I am willing to pay.”
Djokovic was deported from Australia on Jan. 16 before the first Grand Slam tournament of the year after having his visa canceled by Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Jan. 14.
Lawyers for the Serbian player contended that he should be allowed to stay in the country and compete under a medical exemption from the vaccination because he had tested positive for the virus in December.
However, he subsequently lost his court battle to have the cancellation of his visa overturned and was forced to leave Australia.
Djokovic’s rival Rafael Nadal went on to win the tournament.
Gilles Moretton, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), has previously said that the organization was working on welcoming “unvaccinated foreign athletes” ahead of the French Open, which is set to start on May 22.
However, the French ministry has insisted there will be no exemption to the country’s vaccine pass law.
France’s vaccine pass law went into effect across the country on Jan. 24. and requires people to have a certificate of vaccination to enter public places such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and long-distance trains.
“Now, as far as Roland-Garros is concerned, it’s in May. The situation may change between now and then and we hope that it will be more favorable. So we’ll see, but clearly there’s no exemption,” the ministry stated.
However, the vaccine passport can also be used by individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered within the past six months.
Since Djokovic tested positive for the virus on Dec. 17, this means he could potentially still travel to the county up until June without getting vaccinated, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the UK government has declined to say whether or not Djokovic will be able to take part in Wimbledon this year if he remains unvaccinated.
Current rules for unvaccinated travelers to the UK mean they only have to take pre-departure and post-departure tests but are not required to isolate unless they test positive for the virus.
Mandatory masks in enclosed places and vaccine passports that were previously required to enter nightclubs and large events have also been scrapped, although organizations can still choose to use the NHS COVID Pass if they wish to do so.