Peng Shuai appears to confirm she is ‘safe and well’ during video call

Peng Shuai

Concerns over the safety of tennis star Peng Shuai have eased after she told the International Olympic Committee she is “safe and well” during a video call on Sunday.

The IOC had been criticised for not following the WTA and ATP in issuing strong statements regarding the welfare of Chinese player Peng, who had not been heard from since making allegations of sexual assault against a senior government official more than two weeks ago.

The IOC instead said it favoured “quiet diplomacy”, and on Sunday the organisation, which will stage the Winter Olympics in Beijing in just over two months’ time, released a statement detailing the video call with Peng.

It read: “Today, IOC president Thomas Bach held a video call with three-time Olympian Peng Shuai from China.

“He was joined by the chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Emma Terho, and IOC member in China, Li Lingwei, who has known Peng Shuai for many years from her time in the Chinese Tennis Federation.

“At the beginning of the 30-minute call, Peng Shuai thanked the IOC for its concern about her wellbeing. She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time.

“That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much.”

Terho, a former ice hockey player from Finland, said: “I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern. She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.”

Previously, Peng had been seen at a restaurant and a junior tennis tournament in photos and video released by Chinese state media.

It remains to be seen whether the latest development will satisfy the WTA and its head Steve Simon, who has been praised for his forceful stance on the situation.

Simon has threatened to pull tournaments out of China, the most lucrative market for women’s tennis, if Peng’s allegations against Zhang Gaoli, China’s former vice premier, are not fully investigated.

The IOC’s statement made no reference to Peng’s claims, which were made on the social media site Weibo and quickly removed.