LONDON: The Inter­national Tennis Federation (ITF) is committed to player safety and supports an investigation into the whereabouts of Chinese player Peng Shuai, the governing body said on Thursday.

Peng, 35, hasn’t been seen or heard from publicly since she said on social media that a former vice-premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, coerced her into sex and that they later had an on-off consensual relationship. Her post was deleted about half an hour later.

“Player safety is always our top priority and we support a full and transparent investigation into this matter,” the ITF said in a statement.

Women’s Tennis Association chairman Steve Simon expressed doubt over an email the association received on Wednesday in which Peng denied the allegations of sexual assault.

The email, released by Chinese state media outlet CGTN, quoted Peng as saying: “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.” Simon said he had a “hard time believing” that Peng actually wrote the email herself.

“The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe,” he said in a statement.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2021

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