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Peng Shuai denies sexual assault claims, announces retirement

(Fred Lee/Getty Images)

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is speaking out amid the Beijing Olympics, giving an interview on Monday addressing the sexual assault allegations she made against a member of China’s Communist Party.

The 36-year-old spoke with French outlet L’Équipe in the presence of a Chinese Olympic official, telling the publication that public concern over her case was a “huge misunderstanding.”

The interview was conducted on Sunday in a Beijing hotel and was set up by China’s Olympic Committee with assistance from the IOC. Questions were pre-arranged, with L’Equipe revealing it had submitted questions for Peng in advance, a condition of the conversation.

When asked why her November social media post detailing her sexual abuse was removed from her account, Peng says she erased the video herself.

“I hope that we no longer distort the meaning of this post. And I also hope that we don’t add more hype on this,” Peng told the French media outlet. “I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way.”

Following Peng’s allegations, the tennis star fell out of public view, prompting an international campaign aimed at the Chinese government entitled “Where is Peng Shuai?” Fellow tennis players, including Serena Williams, joined in the outcry over Peng’s vanishing, writing, “We must not stay silent” on her Twitter account.

Addressing the outcry around her disappearance, Peng thanked those who spoke out but insisted, “My sentimental problems, my private life, should not be involved in sports and politics,” adding that, “I never disappeared.”

During the interview, Shuai also announced her retirement from tennis, citing mounting injuries. The last time Shuai took the court on Tour was in February 2020.

On Monday, the IOC revealed President Thomas Bach and member Kirsty Coventry had dinner with Peng on Saturday. The organization’s statement summarizing the meeting did not address Peng’s sexual assault claims or subsequent disappearance.

IOC spokesperson Mark Adams responded to a question regarding a potential investigation into Peng’s allegations and safety, stating, “We as a sports organization are doing everything we can to ensure that she is happy, and I don’t think it’s up for us to judge… just like it’s not for you to judge, in one way or another, her position.”