Concern and Anger Build Over Missing Athlete’s Sexual Assault Allegations


There has never been a case like this in China: a prominent athlete making such significant allegations against one of the country’s major political figures. Though Simon received an email from Peng this week, Simon has cast doubt on its authenticity and insisted that the tour wants verifiable proof that Peng is safe. He has said that no one in the tennis community has been able to contact her directly.

Simon has called for a full investigation into Peng’s allegations of sexual assault, an inquiry free of censorship. That could prove even trickier to achieve in a country unlikely to embrace outside demands on how it conducts its internal affairs.

The International Olympic Committee, with even more at stake as it prepares to take the Winter Olympics to Beijing in February, has argued for tact and behind-the-scenes diplomacy rather than direct confrontation. But Simon and the WTA have decided, after careful and lengthy consideration, to make a stand and have doubled down — insisting that if Chinese authorities do not comply, the tour would be prepared to pull out of China, where it had 11 events on the schedule this year.

The men’s tour, which has four events of its own in China, has offered plenty of support for Peng but, as of yet, no such ultimatum. Simon, with even more at risk commercially, has taken a much bolder path, believing that raising the temperature and raising global awareness of Peng’s situation was necessary.

“When you’re talking about allegations such as this and sexual assault, when a woman has the courage to come up and reflect these and state it, you have to have the courage to then follow up and go through the right process and get to the right solution at the end of the day,” Simon said in an interview on Sunday. “You cannot water down or compromise this type of an issue.”

Peng has had to be strong before, overcoming numerous injuries, adversity and isolation. . She had a procedure to repair a heart defect not long before leaving home at age 14: sent by Chinese officials to train at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla.

“She didn’t speak any English, and she was with us for two years,” Chris Evert said on Friday. “She was painfully shy, and most of our coaching was with sign language. I remember we were always trying to make her laugh. She was intense on the court. It was hard for her to fit in with the language barrier, and I sensed a real loneliness.”





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