Why the International Olympic Committee Intervened on China's Behalf in the Peng Shuai Controversy

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Human rights advocates say the IOC's intervention shows it chose to side with officials in China instead of athletes
2017 China Open - Day 6

Peng Shuai Peng of China attends the press conference at the 2017 China Open at the China National Tennis Centre on Oct. 5, 2017 in Beijing. Credit - Getty Images—2017 Zhe Ji

When Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai seemingly disappeared from public view after posting allegations that a top Chinese official sexually assaulted her, the Women's Tennis Association made repeated requests to speak to Peng—and demanded that China investigate her allegations.

But, it appears that the the International Olympic Committee (IOC), not the WTA, was the first organization outside China to speak with Peng. The organizing body of the Olympic Games revealed Sunday that IOC President Thomas Bach had a video call with the three-time Olympic athlete.

In a statement, the IOC said Peng was well and asked people to respect her privacy—but it made no mention of Peng's sexual assault allegation. The opaque nature of the IOC statement, paired with various appearances reported by Chinese state media, left some human rights advocates questioning whether Peng is truly as safe and as free as she seems.

Human rights advocates say the IOC's intervention in the Peng case shows it chose to side with officials in China—host of the 2022 Winter Olympics in February—instead of athletes.

Human Rights Watch on Monday accused the IOC of undermining its commitment to the rights and safety of athletes. It also criticized the IOC for failing to disclose whether it had offered support to Peng for her sexual assault…
Chad de Guzman
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