Slater can't compete in Australia without vaccination, says health minister

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Surfing star Kelly Slater of the USA rides a wave during a promotional event at Sydney's Manly Beach April 13, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

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Jan 20 (Reuters) - American surfing great Kelly Slater will not be allowed to compete in upcoming events in Australia if he doesn't get vaccinated against COVID-19, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Thursday.

Eleven-times world champion Slater, who hasn't revealed his vaccination status, defended tennis world number one Novak Djokovic after the unvaccinated Serbian was detained and later deported by authorities ahead of the Australian Open.

Two World Surf League championship events are scheduled for Victoria and Western Australia in April and May. It remains unclear whether Slater, 49, will take part.

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"I think we've been pretty clear with the Novak Djokovic case of no vax, no play," Hunt told Australian broadcaster Channel 9.

"It's a pretty simple message, doesn't matter what sport, we're even-handed. I hope he (Slater) gets vaccinated and I hope he competes."

World Surf League has not mandated vaccines for competitors but has encouraged them to take the jab, warning they may face "significant" challenges if they choose not to.

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Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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