Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai met with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach over the weekend, the IOC said in a statement Monday. Peng disappeared from the public eye in November after making sexual assault allegations against a Chinese official. File photo by Francis Malasig/EPA-EFE
Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis star whose disappearance from the public eye after making sexual assault allegations against a top Communist Party official sparked international concern about her well-being, met with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach over the weekend, the IOC said on Monday.
The meeting took place on Saturday at the Olympic Club in Beijing and the pair were joined by Kirsty Coventry, former chair of the Athletes' Commission and an IOC member, a statement said.
Peng told Bach that she would attend several events at the Winter Games, according to the statement, and later joined Coventry to watch the mixed curling match between China and Norway on Saturday evening.
The IOC account made no mention of Peng's allegations against former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli on Chinese social media in early November or her subsequent disappearance. The three-time Olympian's comments were swiftly removed from the Twitter-like site Weibo and Peng wasn't seen again until nearly three weeks later, when she held a video call with Bach.
At the time, the IOC said that Peng appeared "safe and well," but the Olympics body has drawn criticism by those still demanding answers about the athlete's treatment and the silencing of her allegations.
Peng has been seen since on a handful of occasions in photos and videos released by Chinese state-run media but many continue to believe that her words and movements are being restricted by the Chinese government.
On Dec. 1, the Women's Tennis Association announced a suspension of all tournaments in China, and its head, Steve Simon, has continued to call for a full investigation of her initial claims.
Later in December, Peng spoke on camera with a Singaporean news outlet and said there had been "many misunderstandings" about her Weibo post and that she "never said or wrote about anyone sexually assaulting me."
The former Wimbledon champion repeated the denials of her assault claims in an interview with L'Equipe, a French sports publication, which ran early Monday morning Beijing time.
She also told L'Equipe that she had never gone missing.
"I never disappeared, everyone could see me," she said in the interview. "But I didn't think there would be such concern and I would like to know: why such concern?"
Bach had announced at a press conference last week that he would meet with Peng and said that the IOC would back her up if she wanted to pursue a further investigation.
"We are step by step trying to find out if she wants to have the inquiry," Bach said. "Of course, we would also support her in this, but it must be her decision. It's her life, it's her allegations."
The IOC statement on Monday said only that Peng "spoke of her disappointment at not being able to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020" and that she "shared her intention to travel to Europe when the COVID-19 pandemic is over."
"All three agreed that any further communication about the content of the meeting would be left to [Peng's] discretion," the statement said.