Written by Staff Writer, CNN
Australian Grand Slam tournament organizers have called on tennis players to get vaccinated against the disease that is sweeping through the country, saying it could harm players.
A case of the potentially fatal human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has been detected in an athlete who tested positive at the Australian Open, and two players who attended same tournament tested positive for a gastrointestinal illness, tennis administrators confirmed last week.
But confusion has followed as to who are affected by the viruses. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had said players were “entitled to take their vacations.” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley was quoted this week as saying the athletes could not take a “big lie.”
And now, Tiley has backtracked.
“Yes, we have been in discussions with the relevant players, and we’ve discussed (whether) they should take up the opportunity to be vaccinated,” Tiley told BBC Sport on Saturday.
“We’re absolutely keen for all players, through their advisor, to ensure that they’re clear and confident of all their environments that they’re going to be involved in.
“We have had some players that have been engaged with us to talk about their schedule and their intentions and I’m not able to discuss the discussions with them.”
Many players taking on opponents at the Australian Open in Melbourne over the weekend appeared to be not wearing their branded shirts.
An Australian Open spokeswoman would not confirm whether the infected player was on a protected list at the tournament. She said it was up to the players to tell tournament organizers when they start feeling unwell.
“At the moment, we’re not recommending any action to any of our players,” she said.
Complications from HIV can include serious kidney or liver issues. Tiley said only infected people had the capacity to have the virus as part of their immune system. But athletes could theoretically not be immunized unless they were a lab or research animal and the viruses were circulating.
“If they’re going to be exposed to this virus, their level of protection would be pretty low unless it’s an infection in one of the two places we’ve already alluded to,” he said.
“There’s no doubt it is an issue of concern, but the relevant team members have the medical arrangements in place and the appropriate steps are being taken to ensure they can perform their duties.”
Tiley warned the two affected players and those from the five other federations with players at the Australian Open that if they did not seek the vaccine, they risked going into hiding.