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Can athletes successfully challenge COVID-19 vaccine mandates? A case study from the Australian Open 2022

Can athletes successfully challenge COVID-19 vaccine mandates? A case study from the Australian Open 2022
Wednesday, 22 December 2021 By Alexandria Anthony, Jackie Chan

The participation of some of the world’s best tennis players at the 2022 Australian Open is uncertain.  The Federal government has mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone trying to enter the country, with some limited exceptions.[1]  As of November 2021,[2] it was estimated that up to 20% of professional tennis players had yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  Prominent players who have expressed hesitancy in being vaccinated include Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Elina Svitolina.[3]  This is a potential problem for tournament organisers who will want the world’s best players to compete in Australia, but who also have an obligation to run a tournament which keeps other players, tournament personnel, and the wider community safe.[4]

This article examines whether athletes can successfully challenge a COVID-19 vaccine mandate at an international sporting event, using the 2022 Australian Open as a case study.  It first examines the current laws and regulations in Australia relating to COVID-19 vaccines which will apply to the 2022 Australian Open.  Finally, it examines the viability of prominent legal arguments against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  We contend that it is unlikely that any legal argument can successfully overturn a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Specifically, it looks at:

  • Laws and Policies Applicable to the 2022 Australian Open:
    • Federal
    • State
    • Sports organisations
  • Challenging COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates:
    • Reasonableness of mandates
    • Constitutional arguments
    • Rights and discrimination arguments
    • Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities

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Written by

Alexandria Anthony

Alexandria Anthony

Alex was admitted as a lawyer in Victoria in November 2018. She moved to SportsLawyer in 2021 to follow her passion for sports and employment law after 3.5 years working at a top-tier law firm in Australia. She is now working at Holding Redlich where she specialises in employment and industrial relations while continuing to pursue her interest in sports law. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) majoring in Philosophy and Human Rights Theory from Monash University.
In her spare time Alex is a competitive long-distance runner, after a 15-year career as an Australian Rules football umpire in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
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Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan

Jackie was admitted as a lawyer in Victoria in October 2019. He has been working at PH Solicitor/SportsLawyer since 2020. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Laws (with Honours) degree from Monash University.

Jackie is a passionate AFL and tennis fan. He enjoys playing electric guitar, travelling and spending time with family and friends in his spare time.

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