The WTA, the association of professional tennis players, can apparently also count on the support of the US government in the case of Peng Shuai. US President Joe Biden and his government will stay away from the Beijing Winter Olympics, the White House announced on Monday. It is a diplomatic boycott, US athletes are allowed to take part in the competitions. The reason given by a government spokeswoman in general was “the ongoing genocide and human rights violations in Xinjiang, as well as other human rights violations.”
WTA boss Steve Simon announced last week that all tournaments in China would be suspended as long as it was not clear whether tennis player Peng Shuai was doing well. The 35-year-old Chinese woman, who used to be number one in the double world rankings, made allegations of sexual violence against a high-ranking Chinese politician on November 2 with a Chinese short message service. The post was immediately deleted, Peng missing for weeks before it was recently featured in reports circulated by the Chinese state media.
For the time being, there were no similar rigorous consequences from the other relevant tennis organizations in the Peng Shuai case. After the ATP, the umbrella organization for the men’s tour, recently made it clear that it would continue to host tournaments in China, the world tennis association has now spoken out in a similar way.
“We don’t want to punish a billion people,” said ITF President David Haggerty of the BBC, which is why the ITF’s youth and senior tournaments will continue to take place in China. The American functionary justified the decision by saying that his institution also had the task of promoting tennis at grassroots level around the world.
“The IOC evades, hesitates or rejects responsibility”
In the course of this event, the International Olympic Committee also came under fire. At first there was no reaction from the IOC, which is hosting the Winter Games in Beijing next February, then the German IOC President Thomas Bach had the news published that he had telephoned Peng that she was safe, but that her privacy was important. To this day, the public has not been able to see the video call – and Simon was not reassured by a second phone call between the IOC boss and Peng.
He doubts that the player can communicate freely and without censorship, and has since repeatedly requested an investigation into the allegations she has made. High-ranking political bodies such as the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) have now followed this view. The IOC pointed out that it was practicing “quiet diplomacy”.
On Monday, the Athletes Germany Association expressed itself and raised serious allegations against the IOC. “The apparently deliberate factoring out of the three-week disappearance of Peng Shuai and the abuse allegations she raised in his two statements leads to fears that the IOC attaches greater importance to political and economic interests than to the protection of athletes,” it said in a statement.
The IOC’s handling of the Peng Shuai case confirms a “recurring behavior pattern in dealing with athletes whose fundamental rights are violated and who are affected by violence, discrimination, persecution or repression”. Specifically, the Association of Athletes Germany denounced: “The IOC evades, hesitates or rejects responsibility.” Maximilian Klein, international sports policy officer at Athleten Deutschland, demands: “The IOC must now show its colors, fulfill its human rights responsibility and finally act in accordance with its ideals.”