After five weeks of concern over the safety of tennis player Peng Shuai in China, the International Olympic Committee said it could not give any certainty on her case.
The IOC’s two video calls with the Grand Slam doubles champion are the only reported contacts Peng has had with people outside of China since November 2, when she posted on social media alleging that she ‘she had been sexually assaulted by a former senior Communist Party official.
Critics claimed the IOC was allowing a cover-up by China ahead of the state-backed plan to host the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.
The IOC faced more questions about Peng on Tuesday at its first press conference since the Women’s Tennis Association, which could not speak to him, suspended all of its tournaments in China.
“We cannot provide you with absolute certainty on anything,” IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said on Tuesday. “All we can do is do our best in the process that we believe is in the best interests of the athlete’s well-being.” The Olympic body has repeatedly cited its policy of “quiet diplomacy” as the most likely to be successful with China, whose leader has met and spoken directly with IOC President Thomas Bach since Beijing was chosen as host in 2015.
Bach participated in the first video call with three-time Olympian Peng on November 21. The call lasted 30 minutes and also involved IOC China members and an athlete representative.
The IOC was criticized after the two video calls for failing to provide any video footage or transcripts of the conversations, fueling doubts that Peng was able to speak or travel freely.
“We can’t give assurances and we don’t know all the facts,” Adams said, pointing to a promise from both sides that Peng and Bach would meet for a dinner in Beijing in January. “It’s a full roadmap to at least try to keep in touch and see where she is.” The WTA’s position on China was taken after speaking with current and former players, and was publicly supported last week by Olympic tennis champion Belinda Bencic.
On social media, the hashtag WhereIsPengShuai has become a trend and has won the support of tennis greats such as Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova and Roger Federer.
When asked on Tuesday why Peng hadn’t spoken to tennis players or WTA executives, Adams said, “Obviously I can’t answer because I really don’t know.” Bach did not attend the online press conference, but German news agency dpa published an interview with the Olympic leader on Tuesday.
“And I can assure you that all aspects of this matter are being discussed with the Chinese side,” Bach said, noting “talks with Chinese sports organizations and official bodies.” Senior IOC member overseeing Beijing’s Olympic preparations, Juan Antonio Samaranch, answered questions and said “it was necessary to be discreet”. “We must respect his desire for discretion also at this very difficult time in his life. And we will, ”Samaranch said at the press conference.
The IOC has repeatedly avoided using words that directly refer to Peng’s claims or the possibility that she has restricted his freedom. Instead, statements after the video calls only cited “his situation.”
(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)