Peng Shuai denies making sexual assault allegation
Beijing, Feb 07: Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai said she never accused anyone of sexual assault and announced her retirement from the sport during an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe on Monday.
Last November, Peng appeared to accuse a former Chinese vice premier of sexual assault in a post on Chinese social media platform Weibo. The post was quickly deleted.
Peng, who disappeared from public for around three weeks after that, released a statement in December, saying there had been a "misunderstanding" with regard to the post, and making clear she didn't accuse anyone of sexual misconduct then too.
But the sporting and international community remained worried about her safety and ability to freely speak her mind. Peng has not updated her profile on Weibo since the post was removed, and searches on the platform with regard to her name also show no recent results.
Peng denies assault claims, says she never "disappeared"
Peng, told the newspaper during the interview: "I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way."
She said she deleted the social media post herself because she "wanted to" and she never disappeared from the public.
"I never disappeared. It's just that many people, like my friends or people from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) messaged me, and it was simply impossible to answer so many messages," Shuai said.
"But I've always been in close contact with my close friends. I talk to them, I answered their emails, I also talked with the WTA," Shuai explained, referring to the Women's Tennis Association.
The WTA said in December, after Peng released her statement, that there were "significant concerns" about her well-being and ability to communicate freely. They have since suspended tournaments inChina over fears for Peng's safety.
Peng meets IOC president
Peng said she met International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach for dinner on Saturday inside the Winter Olympics bubble in Beijing.
Bach previously held a video conference with Peng on November 21 but that led to accusations that he was trying to protect the hosts of the 2022 Winter Games.
"He asked me whether I am considering competing again, what my projects are, what I'm planning to do, and so on," Peng said.
Peng, who was accompanied by Chinese Olympic Committee Chief of Staff Wang Kan during the course of the interview at a hotel inside the Winter Olympics bubble, told the newspaper she was retiring from tennis.
The IOC said Peng would attend several events at the Winter Games in a statement on Monday. She also planned travels to Europe and the IOC headquarters in Switzerland after the pandemic, the statement added.