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WTA Pulls Tournaments from China Over Peng Shuai Story

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China's Peng Shuai serves to Japan's Nao Hibino during their first round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan. 21, 2020. China's Foreign Ministry is sticking to its line that it isn't aware of the controversy surrounding tennis professional Peng Shuai, who disappeared after accusing a former top official of sexually assaulting her. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)

By Evan Weiner |

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has decided it does not need to do business in China on a short-term basis and has pulled all of its tournaments out of the country. The WTA is not happy with China’s silencing of the sexual assault allegations made by Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai against a former top Communist Party official.

The WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said: “In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault. Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”

The WTA action vastly differs from the International Olympic Committee which has sidestepped the issue as best it could. On November 21, the IOC wrote in a statement that in a video call with IOC president Thomas Bach, Peng seemed to be “relaxed.”

IOC members have not seen that video as Dick Pound, a Canadian IOC delegate and a Montreal based lawyer, told CNN but Pound is good with that.  It is “the best evidence we have at the moment. There are lots of countries where you can’t easily leave the country. I think a lot of that is speculation. What we have is hard evidence as we can have and feel. These are people who have dealt with athletes and dealt with pressure. They can tell whether somebody is behaving under duress or not.”

The IOC’s 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in China, there is money to be made in China. The WTA doesn’t want that money but the IOC does.

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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