When the No. 1-ranked women’s tennis player in the world took to the court at Wimbledon, none of her coaches nor coaches of her male counterparts had her vaccinated, even though it is standard procedure for teams’ medical team to check on players who lack immunizations.
Officials of the elite Australian Open in Melbourne are dealing with this issue of unvaccinated players, too. The tournament declined to lift a ban on unvaccinated players to have them play alongside the fighters the Australian players have been reteamed.
“We’ve made sure that our team is well-equipped to meet the World Anti-Doping Agency standards. There’s no special loophole for access in terms of anti-doping procedures to ensure that our staff are protected,” Robert Bradtke, tournament director of the Australian Open, told reporters on Wednesday.
It has not been determined which player will be selected from among the Australian players to play, according to the Associated Press. The tournament began on Monday. The players have until July 25 to disclose if they have not been vaccinated. Then, if they are to be allowed, they must take two days off.
“I’m certainly not in a position to understand when their decisions are going to be made,” Bradtke said. “But in terms of the medical team working with them, they are going to be held to the same standards as all of our competitors at the Australian Open,”
“Having a player not have their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations means you are putting one of the nation’s sport’s greatest assets at risk,” Australian Tennis Association chief executive Craig Tiley said. “It is unacceptable that athletes are permitted to access world-class sports facilities, such as the Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena, in states of uncertainty.”
In recent years, Bradtke has made it clear he believes players should be conscientious objectors to vaccinations.
“We don’t want a day player that doesn’t have their MMR shot,” Bradtke said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s not fair on the person sitting next to them.”
The Australian Open has allowed individuals to choose not to have their vaccinations for philosophical reasons.
The rules are different with women’s tennis. Only a person “with medical conditions” can qualify for the women’s tournament. Only a physician can officiate a post-match doping control or an independent anti-doping advisor for those reasons.
WTA Tour officials understand that players need to protect themselves with vaccinations.
“It is a very clear guidance of our sport with regards to the anti-doping policy and the medical management of our athletes,” said Stacey Allaster, WTA president. “That’s our position.”
The world’s top women’s players already tend to play in indoor tournaments, where immunizations are more easily administered. The Australian Open already hosts a series of outdoor major tournaments.
“So the option to have the players choose not to be vaccinated wouldn’t be open to them,” Allaster said.
“We have to make sure that our athletes are at their absolute best — which isn’t going to be at their absolute best by virtue of a medical condition,” Bradtke said. “We’ve now got the two-day rest period and we have to make sure that we’re safe, and the best way to do that is to let people be able to go down to Melbourne.”