IOC’s Thomas Bach Says ‘Where Is Peng Shuai?’ Questions Have Been Answered After Olympic Appearances

IOC’s Thomas Bach says ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ questions have been answered after Olympic appearances

Newly retired Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has made several appearances at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics But while many in the international community still question her safety, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach believes the concern over her whereabouts has been answered.

Bach met with Peng at a dinner on Saturday, a day after the Games began. Prior to the meeting, he told reporters that his goal was “to convince us in person of her well-being and state of mind.” By Wednesday, he seemed convinced.

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China's Peng Shuai wearing a face mask watches the event.

China’s Peng Shuai wearing a face mask watches the event.
(REUTERS / Fabrizio Bensch)

“We were trying to answer the question everybody was asking: ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ This is why we took this human-centered approach from the very beginning, “Bach told reporters Reuters.

“This is why we invited her for a meeting here, to show everybody it is not just a one-off effort. We will keep this contact up. We answered the question ‘where is Peng Shuai?’ We are continuing by having invited her to come to [the IOC headquarters]”Bach said of a second meeting, expected sometime in the summer.

Peng, 36, made headlines in November when she wrote a lengthy post on Chinese social media platform Weibo that alleged former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals following a round of tennis three years ago. She briefly disappeared from the public for two weeks after making the initial post but later emerged to deny saying she was sexually assaulted.

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China's Peng Shuai waves as she leaves the event.

China’s Peng Shuai waves as she leaves the event.
(REUTERS / Staff)

She gave a second, controlled interview on Monday where she told French sports newspaper L’Equipe that the concerns were the result of “an enormous misunderstanding.” Peng also announced her retirement, saying that her age and multiple surgeries would not allow her to return to tour-level professional tennis.

Peng has been pictured smiling and waving at several Olympic events.

“You could see it in her appearances that she is enjoying the Games, enjoying being among athletes and the public and this is why we are continuing to have this contact,” Bach said Wednesday. “It is about caring for her. It is a human thing. It is about a person and the feelings, the emotions of one person.”

Thomas Bach, IOC President speaks with Peng Shuai prior to the Women's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final on Day 4 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Big Air Shougang on February 08, 2022 in Beijing, China.

Thomas Bach, IOC President speaks with Peng Shuai prior to the Women’s Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final on Day 4 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Big Air Shougang on February 08, 2022 in Beijing, China.
(Photo by Richard Heathcote / Getty Images)

The WTA, one of the IOC’s largest critics regarding the situation, released a statement saying it will “continue to hold firm on our position” despite her recent appearance.

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“It’s always good to see Peng Shuai, whether in an interview or attending the Olympic Games,” Chairman and CEO Steve Simon wrote in a statement. “However, her recent in-person interview does not alleviate any of our concerns about her initial post from November 2nd.”

To reiterate our view, Peng took a bold step in publicly coming forth with the accusation that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader. As we would do with any of our players globally, we have called for a formal investigation into the Allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng – privately – to discuss her situation. “

The Associated Press contributed to this report.