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Peng Shuai meets with IOC president, denies sexual assault allegation in French newspaper

Emotional day of competition at Winter Olympics
Emotional day of competition at Winter Olympics 01:33

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai met with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, the IOC said in a statement Sunday. The two met for dinner, along with two other IOC members, on Saturday, the statement said.

Peng last year sparked international concern when she disappeared from public view for nearly three weeks after seemingly accusing a former high-level Chinese official of forcing her into a sexual relationship. In a separate interview published in a French newspaper Monday, Peng denied ever making the accusation, calling it an "enormous misunderstanding," according to The Associated Press.

Following the dinner, Peng, a former doubles champion at Wimbledon and the French Open and former Olympian,  attended the mixed curling match between China and Norway, the IOC said. 

In November, Peng wrote on the Chinese social media site Weibo that she had been forced into a sexual relationship by Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of the State Council and member of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo. The post was taken down minutes later and Peng was not seen publicly for the next 20 days.

According to AP, Peng on Sunday told the French publication L'Equipe, "Sexual assault? I never said that anyone made me submit to a sexual assault."

"This post resulted in an enormous misunderstanding from the outside world," she added, according to AP. "My wish is that the meaning of this post no longer be skewed."  

The Associated Press noted that a Chinese Olympic Committee official was present for the interview with L'Equipe and translated Peng's comments from Chinese for the publication.

Peng's initial disappearance prompted fears that she had been detained by the Chinese government. After the Weibo post was taken down, an email allegedly written by Peng and addressed to Women's Tennis Association head Steve Simon read, "The allegation of sexual assault is not true. I'm not missing nor am I unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine." 

Simon said at the time that he had "a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her."

Although the IOC said it had spoken to Peng amid the controversy, the WTA in December decided to suspend a 10-year agreement to host various tournaments in China.

IOC President Thomas Bach has a virtual discussion with Chinese tennis player Peng in Lausanne
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has a virtual discussion with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, from Lausanne, Switzerland, November 21, 2021. Greg Martin/IOC Handout via REUTERS

Shortly after the WTA's announcement, Bach said he had spoken with Peng again. The IOC then released a still image of the video call between the two. That same weekend, Peng was then seen on Chinese state media at a youth tennis event and in another video posted on Twitter with her tennis coach.

At the time of the initial video call between Peng and the IOC, China risk analyst and CBS News contributor Isaac Stone Fish noted that the committee's involvement was odd.

"It's certainly quite suspicious," Stone Fish told CBS News, "that the International Olympic Committee — an organization known for its close ties with Beijing — was the Western conduit for [the] alleged video chat with Peng, as opposed to, say, the Women's Tennis Association, which has been a lot more critical." 

2022 Winter Olympics underway as China faces accusations of human rights abuses 07:08

Haley Ott and Ramy Inocencio contributed reporting.

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