Tennis star Peng Shuai told International Olympic Committee officials she’s not in danger during a video call over the weekend, insisting there’s nothing to worry about, but the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is still concerned about the star player.
The 35-year-old former #1 ranked doubles player in the world seemingly vanished around 3 weeks ago after accusing a powerful former Chinese politician of sexual assault on social media.
The post was taken down … and Shuai wasn’t heard from for weeks. Then, top tennis players like Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, and Novak Djokovic took notice — along with the WTA — and demanded action.
Cue the 30-minute Zoom call … with IOC prez Thomas Bach, and 2 other officials.
“Peng Shuai thanked the IOC for its concern about her well-being. She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time. That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now,” the IOC said in a statement issued following the call.
After they spoke, another IOC official said they were convinced the 2013 Wimbledon doubles winner was safe and healthy after the call.
“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern. She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.”
But, not everyone’s content with the call. The WTA, which has done an incredible job demanding answers from Chinese officials, still have concerns over Peng’s safety.
“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokesperson told ESPN.
When asked specifically about the IOC’s Zoom call, the WTA spokesperson said, “This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.”
After not being seen or heard from for weeks, Peng’s been more visible lately. In addition to the video call on Sunday, Shuai was also seen at a tennis tournament in Beijing on Saturday.
Question is … is Peng being coerced, or is she truly free?