Roger Federer’s contract with commentator sponsor Nike had been terminated after the Swiss star was criticized for skipping the Australian Open in part because he didn’t want to vaccinate his young twins. The controversy occurred just after Nike signed tennis players Maria Sharapova and Lleyton Hewitt to contract extensions, both of whom use anti-vaxxers as business partners.
That problem has apparently been solved, according to Australian publication The Age.
Tennis Australia has changed its policy and allows unvaccinated players to compete at the Grand Slam tournament.
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said in a statement: “In the last 24 hours we have reviewed the Australian Open’s (anti-vax policy) and we have made a decision that we think is appropriate. I am certainly not forcing them into any situation but I think for the health of the sport and for the safety of our players … we want the most qualified team to be on court.”
“In the last 24 hours we have reviewed the Australian Open’s (anti-vax policy) and we have made a decision that we think is appropriate. I am certainly not forcing them into any situation but I think for the health of the sport and for the safety of our players … we want the most qualified team to be on court.” -Tiley
Tiley told The Age in a phone interview that the Australian Open’s policy was based on available data “that suggests that the immunisation of children has no impact on performance.”
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2009 found that there was little evidence that the vaccine factor played a major role in tournament success. After testing data for 35 years of Grand Slam champions, the researchers didn’t see a statistically significant link between flu shots and a drop in winning percentage.
Several Australian Open players who were exposed to anti-vaxxers via associations with business interests have resolved their contracts with Nike or Adidas, The Age reports.
Sharapova, who has stood by her anti-vax beliefs, issued a statement regarding the Australian Open on Thursday night.
“I’m one of many athletes with differing opinions,” she said. “But personally, I think this is completely ridiculous and unnecessary. I take medication for many of my medical conditions and always have and will continue to do so. I will continue to keep fighting for parents and kids everywhere who deserve to be protected from preventable diseases.”
Sharapova played at the Australian Open a year ago after returning from a two-year ban for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.