The Army of Survivors would like to extend support to Chinese tennis Olympian Peng Shuai, who recently went missing after publicly stating she was sexually assaulted by former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.
We are pleased to see Peng alive this weekend in a video call with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, though we are not yet convinced of her safety. The call was not enough to be considered confirmation of her well-being or that her needs are being met.
We would like to urge the IOC to continue working to ensure that Peng is safe and not under threat by the Chinese government, no matter the cost. The IOC refers to its athletes as members of a family — however as a three-time Olympian, Peng is not being treated as such. With the 2022 Olympics in Beijing looming, the IOC’s lack of urgency in this situation proves what we have long known to be true: too many sports organizations put profit over people.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has acted admirably the past couple weeks, threatening to cancel future tournaments in China and stating its “relationship with China is at a crossroads.” WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon has been steadfast in his commitment to demanding Peng’s claims be fully investigated and that she is free and safe. It is our hope that the WTA’s recent actions serve as the standard for other sports entities when issues of athletes’ rights arise.
It is unfortunate that the IOC could use its standing to demand the same things as the WTA, but has yet to do so. The IOC has an incredible amount of leverage surrounding the upcoming Olympics, but has yet to use this leverage in the name of human’s rights.
Our thoughts remain with Peng Shuai and those close to her. We know firsthand the trauma and fear that can come from disclosing abuse, especially when an organization is not trauma-informed. It is our hope that all athlete survivors, including Peng Shuai, can find the support they deserve in a safe and athlete-centered environment.