Tennis

Women’s Tennis Association doubts email ‘sent’ by Peng Shuai

Peng Shuai
Peng Shuai. Photo/Pipanews

Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is casting doubt on an email allegedly sent by Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai released by Chinese State Media, CGTN.

This follows growing concern on her whereabouts after accusing Zhang Gaoli, former Chinese vice premier of harassing her sexually. Shuai has not been seen or heard of since she made the damning allegations.

According to CGTN, Shuai allegedly wrote the email with her voice and later published it by CGTN – at least, the email says so. She negates her earlier accusations against Gaoli, 75, saying they were untrue.

Peng Shuai

Peng Shuai. Photo/Harry How/Getty Images

She adds that she is well and has been resting at home.

WTA chairman Steve Simon says it is hard believing that Shuai wrote an email claiming her past utterances were false. He is now concerned about her safety.

“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her,” Simon stated.

At first, the Chinese Tennis Association assured WTA that Shuai was doing well and was free.

Simon is not the only one casting doubts on this email. Many other Chinese citizens on social media are too.

Shuai through her Weibo social media channel claimed that Gaoli who was a member of Politburi Standing Committee solicited sex from her. She gave in to his demands though the nature of their relationship was on and off.

Politburi Standing Committee is China’s top-most organ in the sporting sector. She added that she could not provide evidence to back her claim.

Her post was pulled down half an hour later. China Tennis Association is yet to respond to the allegations. Given China’s strict internet censorship laws, it remains to be seen what happens next to Zhang.

He served as vice-premier between 2013 and 2018 and also served in Politburo Standing Committee between 2012 and 2017.

WTA last week said it would seek a full, fair and transparent investigation into sexual assault allegations against Gaoli.

“The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern,” WTA Tour chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in the statement.

“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored.”

The WTA boss said censoring Shuai who is a victim of sexual assault is unfair. Simon added that the claims must be investigated in-depth to end an assault culture.

Speaking separately to New York Times, Simon said that “I think everybody fully understands what’s at stake here on many different fronts as we’re going through it.”

Peng Shuai

Peng Shuai. Photo/LatestLY

“I think we’re certainly, from players to board to council, fully united that the only acceptable approach is that of doing what is right.”

Shuai is the world number one doubles player who scooped the tag in 2014. She became the first player from China to be top-ranked after double titles victory in Wimbledon in 2013.

She later scooped another win in the French Open 2014 adding to WTA Tour efforts to expand the game in this Asian country in the last decade.

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