Chinese Tennis Star Peng Shuai Tells IOC She's Fine in Call as Concerns for Her Wellbeing Remain

·3 min read
Peng Shuai of China returns a shot during the women's singles 2nd round match against Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia on day 4 of the 2020 WTA Shenzhen Open at Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center on January 08, 2020 in Shenzhen, China.
Peng Shuai of China returns a shot during the women's singles 2nd round match against Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia on day 4 of the 2020 WTA Shenzhen Open at Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center on January 08, 2020 in Shenzhen, China.

Zhizhao Wu/Getty

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has told Olympic officials that she is fine in a video call after being reported missing following sexual assault allegations she made against a Chinese government official, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC said in a statement on Sunday that Peng, 35, met with the organization's President Thomas Bach and two other IOC officials — athletes commission chair Emma Terho and IOC member Li Lingwei, a former vice president of the Chinese Tennis Association — during which she addressed her safety. It is unclear when exactly the call took place.

Speaking to the trio in a 30-minute video call, Peng "thanked the IOC for its concern about her well-being" and "explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time," the organization said.

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"I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern. She appeared to be relaxed," said Terho. "I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated."

The IOC noted that Bach invited Peng to join him for dinner when he arrives in Beijing for the Winter Olympic Games next year. The IOC added that the pair agreed to include Terho and Lingwei.

RELATED: Pressure Is 'Heightened' on China to Answer for Missing Tennis Star Peng Shuai's Whereabouts

Peng's video call appearance with the IOC came shortly after the tennis star was spotted on two occasions in public over the weekend, CNN reported. Peng appeared with friends at a dinner on Saturday, before she attended a children's tennis tournament the following day.

Peng Shuai
Peng Shuai

Phil Walter/Getty

In a statement, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), which has spoken out about fears for Peng previously, said that they remain concerned for the athlete's wellbeing, however.

"It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don't alleviate or address the WTA's concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion," a spokesperson for the WTA told ESPN in a statement.

"This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern," the organization continued.

The WTA did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

RELATED: Serena Williams Speaks Out About Missing Player Peng Shuai as UN Asks China for Proof of Whereabouts

Peng Shuai of China celebrates a point during the women's singles 2nd round match against Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia on day 4 of the 2020 WTA Shenzhen Open at Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center on January 08, 2020 in Shenzhen, China.
Peng Shuai of China celebrates a point during the women's singles 2nd round match against Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia on day 4 of the 2020 WTA Shenzhen Open at Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center on January 08, 2020 in Shenzhen, China.

Zhizhao Wu/Getty

In a since-deleted post from Nov. 2 on her Weibo microblog, Peng alleged that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex several years ago and that she later agreed to a consensual affair with him, according to Reuters, The Washington Post and CNN.

The post was deleted about 30 minutes after it was published, CNN and Reuters reported. Screenshots of the post have been circulating on social media.

Peng had then not been seen in public or heard from directly since making the accusation, before an email was released Wednesday by the country's state-owned television broadcaster, CGTN, claiming to be written by Peng. The message denies that she had been sexually assaulted and insists that she has been resting at her home.

Speaking on Friday's episode of the PEOPLE Every Day podcast, hosted by Janine Rubenstein, Kavitha Davidson, sports and culture writer for The Athletic who has been reporting on the tennis player's disappearance, explained that the WTA doesn't "believe that the email that Chinese state media put out is true."

"The way that this email reads, and I don't say this lightly, this sounds hyperbolic — but it reads a little bit like a hostage note," she added, before clarifying, "I'm not saying that necessarily Peng is being held hostage. But the WTA itself has said that they doubt the veracity of, and the origins of this email."

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