The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has stepped up its demands for China to fully investigate the sexual assault scandal involving former doubles world number one Peng Shuai. We look at the battle lines which have been drawn.
WHAT ARE THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS?
The WTA announced on Wednesday that it was suspending all tournaments in China until it received assurances that the allegations made by Peng on social media against former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli in November are fully investigated.
<blockquote> <span><strong>Read more</strong></span> <figure> <img src="https://cdni.rt.com/files/2021.12/thumbnail/61a7d0072030272fd64fbe2c.JPG" alt="Peng Shuai has been at the center of an international row. © Reuters" /> <figcaption><a href="/sport/541912-wta-china-peng-shuai/">WTA suspends tournaments in China over Peng Shuai</a></figcaption> </figure> </blockquote>
In a statement, WTA boss Steve Simon said: “I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault.
“Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”
In follow-up comments, Simon suggested that the pullout from China could last beyond 2022 unless the WTA is able to speak to Peng and “a full and transparent” investigation into the allegations is held “without any level of censorship.”
WHAT DOES THE WTA STAND TO LOSE?
By suspending its events in China, the WTA and its players potentially stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcasting and sponsorship revenue as well as prize money, according to some estimates.
China hosts around 10 WTA tournaments annually, including the lucrative season-ending WTA Finals.
In 2018, the two parties penned a 10-year deal for the event to be held in Shenzhen, along with record prize money being awarded to the participants.
The event was won by Australia’s Ash Barty in 2019 before being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and switched to Mexico this year – reportedly because of the pandemic again – but it was due to return in 2022.