It has been a stormy start to the year for tennis world number one Novak Djokovic. Or, as memers like to call him, No-vax Djo-Covid. The Serb’s anti-vaccination stance was known all through the pandemic, but the matter came to a head as he was denied access into Australia to play the calendar year’s first grand slam.
Though a federal court has ruled that the government’s cancellation of his visa despite him getting a medical exemption from Australia’s strict vaccination mandate was illegal, the saga is far from over.
Nevertheless, Djokovic’s refusal to get vaccinated has once again brought to the fore his unorthodox beliefs and lifestyle.
The 34-year-old has frequently dismissed modern medicine and has been a proponent of alternative medicine for recovery and treatment.
Djokovic is known to make trips to Visoko in Bosnia where he meets businessman Semir Osmanagic, who claims the ancient man-made structures in the area have healing powers.
The player is also a long-time student of Chervin Jafarieh, an anti-science wellness guru, who is believed to be behind Djokovic’s anti-vaccine stance. The wellness guru is against “militarism, urbanization, carbon combustion, mining of metals and toxic materials, manufacturing of chemicals and biological poisons”, which leads to his scepticism of modern medicine.
Last year, Djokovic was ridiculed for discussing with Jafarieh on a public forum how he could alter the composition of water and food through the power of positive thinking.
“I've seen people and I know some people that through energetical transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they manage to turn the most toxic food or the most polluted water, into the most healing water,” said Djokovic during the interaction.
“Because water reacts and scientists have proven that molecules in the water react to our emotions to what is being said.”
Jafarieh was reportedly selling $50 bottles of Advanced Brain Nutrients at the time.
In an interview with podcaster Jay Shetty, Djokovic described the importance of spiritual teachers and Reiki healers in his life, saying that they had helped him and his wife to “open our minds, even more, to understand how we can have internal conversations with ourselves”.
Djokovic also attributes much of his on-court success to giving up gluten after a Serbian nutritionist Dr Igor Cetojevic held a piece of white bread against his stomach as a test in 2010. He once said that he followed a strictly plant-based diet.
Djokovic’s road to greatness may have involved the quirks of alternative medicine and wellness gurus, but all of those stayed as personal choices that nobody cared about. Until the pandemic hit and an ill-fated Adria Tour in 2020 exposed the effects of his beliefs on others around him. History will remember him as one of the greatest athletes of the 21st century. Science will remember him as a denier.