Fact check: False claim that 4 athletes dropped out of Australian Open due to chest pain

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The claim: Four players were forced to drop out of the Australian Open due to chest pains

As the 2022 Australian Open progressed in Melbourne, some vaccine skeptics took to social media to link the absence of certain tennis stars to purported chest pains, suggesting COVID-19 shots played a role.

“Fourth player drops out of Australian Open with ‘chest pains’” reads a screenshot of a post that was shared to Facebook on Jan. 19 and accumulated more than 250 shares in less than a week. The text is accompanied by a 2020 screen capture of Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic collapsing on the court.

Posts making similar versions of the claim went viral on Facebook and Twitter, with many users sharing a screenshot of a Jan. 10 article from the conservative website Free West Media headlined, “Three players drop out of Australian Open with chest issues while Djokovic awaits his fate.”

The article identifies the “fully vaccinated tennis players” who are purportedly complaining about tiredness and breathing problems as Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, Australian Nick Kyrgios and Jakupovic. It’s unclear who the fourth player is that the Facebook users are referencing.

However, none of the athletes mentioned in the posts have dropped out of this year’s Australian Open due to chest pain. The article has been debunked by independent fact-check organizations, and the claim echoes previous baseless rumors attributing athlete injuries to COVID-19 vaccines.

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Free West Media and the social media users did not return requests for comment.

Players haven’t dropped out from chest pains

Jakupovic was not scheduled to play in the competition this year, and both Basilashvili and Kyrgios have competed at the tournament, according to 2022 player lists from the Australian Open and Women’s Tennis Association.

The video of Jakupovic collapsing on the court predates the COVID-19 vaccines and was captured in January 2020. At the time, she experienced breathing difficulties due to hazardous and poor air quality conditions from massive wildfires in Melbourne, causing her to fall to her knees and receive medical attention.

Basilashvili has played in matches at the Australian Open and is listed on the roster. In a separate incident on Jan. 5 prior to the tournament in Melbourne, he struggled with breathing during Sydney’s ATP cup, resulting in him pulling out from the match.

Nick Kyrgios of Australia gestures as he walks from Rod Laver Arena following his second round loss to Daniil Medvedev of Russia at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)
Nick Kyrgios of Australia gestures as he walks from Rod Laver Arena following his second round loss to Daniil Medvedev of Russia at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

Kyrgios pulled out from the Sydney Tennis Classic on Jan. 10 after testing positive for COVID-19, the Australian Associated Press reported. However, he ended up recovering from the virus and returned to the Australian Open. Kyrgios recently tweeted about an exchange that took place in the locker room between him and his opponents after a match.

USA TODAY did not find any other news reports about athletes withdrawing from the Australian Open due to chest pains, and the posts do not identify the fourth player.

Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines primarily designed to prevent serious illness, death

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that four players were forced to drop out of the Australian Open due to chest pains. Jakupovic is not scheduled to play at the tournament this year, and the video of her collapsing is from January 2020. Meanwhile, Basilashvili and Kyrgios have been documented playing at the Australian Open. There is no evidence any other player dropped out due to chest pains.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Australian Open players didn't drop out due to chest pains