Victorian Premier rejects claims new doping rules threaten Novak Djokovic

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Victorian Health minister Jill Hennessy says courts must be given more power to oversee doping cases

Victoria’s sporting minister, Jill Hennessy, has rejected a suggestion that Australia’s new mandatory anti-doping rule was “blackmail” against world No1 tennis player Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic, 31, said on Tuesday he was appalled by the new, simple blood test that will be implemented by Australian tennis’s peak body from next year, because he cannot afford to give blood twice a year.

He spoke out after WTA and ATP chief executive Chris Kermode announced the change, which aims to curb illegal blood doping in sports such as tennis, athletics and cycling, and to get similar drug testing at other sports as well.

Hennessy said courts must be given more power to oversee doping cases, but she rejected accusations that the shake-up was “blackmail” against the world No1.

Australia places world No1 Djokovic at centre of new mandatory doping testing regime Read more

“I don’t think we’re trying to influence a player’s choice,” Hennessy told reporters on Thursday. “We’re trying to put additional resources in place in the courtroom to ensure that no rights are ceded, to ensure that we get justice for athletes.

“I just don’t think that we’re trying to threaten a player’s freedoms. We’re trying to take the power away from people who have hijacked it in the past and said it’s only about us. We’re the ones who signed this agreement.

“We want to hear the evidence, not just allegations.”

Hennessy said courts have jurisdiction to overrule any objections from athletes as long as all legal requirements are met, and they should have that right.

“I think it’s absurd if an athlete has a right to deny that right because he’s so busy spending his time trying to avoid any invasive procedures,” she said.

The Victorian government will also fund two extra doping experts to work for the new federal body.

“I’m a strong believer in the courts having the power to deal with these matters, particularly given the evidence that we’ve seen in the area of cannabis, we’ve seen the evidence of vitamin supplements and, again, in relation to the new mandatory testing program,” Hennessy said.

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Australia’s top tennis player will be tested four times a year, the maximum allowed under the changes.

Djokovic’s comments came after he said he took pride in what he was made of.

“There’s nothing there, honestly,” he said of the new blood test. “I mean, it’s a very straightforward process … I think it’s worse than what people want to say … because I cannot afford to have to go to multiple hospitals, run to various places and have to stand in queues, and have two people taking blood … that’s not an option for me.”

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