Updated Feb 7, 2022 - Sports

Peng Shuai announces retirement and denies sex assault claim

 Shuai Peng of China in action during a Women's Singles first round match at the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.

China's Peng Shuai during the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Fred Lee/Getty Images

Peng Shuai announced she's retiring from tennis and called sexual abuse allegations she'd made against a former Chinese government official a "huge misunderstanding," in an interview with French sports news outlet L'Équipe published Monday.

Why it matters: Peng's interview denying her earlier allegations against former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli was arranged by the Chinese Olympic Committee and conducted at its hotel in Beijing's Olympics "closed loop" in the presence of a COC official, the Washington Post notes.

Flashback: The former world No. 1 doubles player alleged in a since-deleted post on Weibo last November that Zhang coerced her into having sex with him and that they had an intermittent consensual relationship for about 10 years.

  • Peng briefly vanished after making the allegations and denied the claims after reappearing in public — raising concerns that she'd been pressured by China's government.

What she's saying: "I never said anyone sexually assaulted me," Peng told L'Équipe. "My private life should not be brought up in sports and politics."

What else is happening: The interview came as the International Olympic Committee announced that its president, Thomas Bach, met with Peng for dinner over the weekend.

  • IOC member Kirsty Coventry was also at the dinner and the pair attended the China-Norway mixed curling match together on Saturday night, per a committee statement.
  • Bach said last Thursday if Peng "wants to have an inquiry, of course we would support her in this, but it must be her decision," according to the Independent.

The big picture: The Women's Tennis Association suspended all tournaments in China in response to concerns about Peng's well-being and called for a "full, fair and transparent investigation" into her allegations.

  • The IOC defended criticism that it had been slow to respond after the 36-year-old made the allegations, saying it was conducting "quiet diplomacy."

What to watch: Peng and Coventry will remain in contact, and the Chinese tennis star and the IOC agreed "that any further communication about the content of the meeting would be left to her discretion," per Sunday's statement.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details from Peng's interview with L'Équipe.

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