Peng Shuai: IOC reveal second video call with Chinese tennis player
The International Olympic Committee says it has once again spoken with tennis player Peng Shuai.
It comes after the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) suspended all tournaments in China amid fears for the safety of Peng Shuai.
WTA chairman and chief executive Steve Simon took a strong stance against the tour’s biggest market after former world doubles number one Peng made an allegation of sexual assault against a senior Chinese official on social media last month that was swiftly removed.
The WTA called for a full investigation adding it had been unable to gain proof that Peng is free of censorship and coercion.
In a statement, the WTA said: “If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”
The move from the WTA prompted speculation that the decision could see the ATP and the International Tennis Federation – which runs tournaments at the lower levels of the game – following the suspension of tournaments in China.
Novak Djokovic backed the suspension, saying: “I support fully WTA’s stance because we don’t have enough information about Peng Shuai and her well-being, and her health is of the utmost importance for the tennis community.
“We don’t have enough information, and I think it’s a very bold, very courageous stance from WTA.”
The International Olympic Committee have since revealed that have held a second call with Peng Shuai following on from a call in November. The IOC was criticised for saying after a video call with Peng on November 21 that she was “safe and well” despite offering no evidence that she was talking freely or addressing the sexual assault allegation.
The governing body revealed a second call has taken place with a “personal meeting” planned for January.
A statement from the IOC read: "We share the same concern as many other people and organisations about the well-being and safety of Peng Shuai.
“This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team held another video call with her. We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January.
"There are different ways to achieve her well-being and safety. We have taken a very human and person-centred approach to her situation. Since she is a three-time Olympian, the IOC is addressing these concerns directly with Chinese sports organisations.
“We are using ‘quiet diplomacy’ which, given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organisations, is indicated to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters.
"The IOC’s efforts led to a half-hour videoconference with Peng Shuai on 21 November, during which she explained her situation and appeared to be safe and well, given the difficult situation she is in.
“This was reconfirmed in yesterday’s call. Our human and person-centred approach means that we continue to be concerned about her personal situation and will continue to support her."
There have been calls to boycott the Winter Olympics in February in Beijing over China's human rights record.