Sports | November 21, 2021 6:47 pm

What Will the Fallout From Peng Shuai’s Disappearance Be?

A tense situation might be resolving

Peng Shuai protests
Two people hold placards for the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai who disappeared after accusing Zhang Gaoli of sexual violence.
Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Earlier this month, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai accused Zhang Gaoli, who spent five years as the country’s ice Premier, of sexually assaulting her. Not long afterwards, the post was deleted and she effectively disappeared — leading to a growing amount of concern in the tennis community over what had happened to her. A number of high-profile tennis players — Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka among them — used their platforms to push for greater clarity regarding her whereabouts.

Last week, the International Olympic Committee joined the chorus of those calling for answers. As reported by Ellen Francis at The Washington Post, the IOC Athletes’ Commission stated its hope that diplomacy “will lead to the release of information about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai and confirmation of her safety and well-being.”

IOC senior member Dick Pound expressed a more alarming sentiment when he spoke with Reuters on Friday. “[I]f that’s not resolved in a sensible way very soon it may spin out of control,” Pound said — and didn’t rule out the possibility of the Beijing Olympics being canceled.

On Sunday afternoon, however, signs emerged that the IOC’s diplomatic approach may have worked. The Daily Beast’s Barbie Latza Nadeau reported that Peng spoke with IOC president Thomas Bach via video call for 30 minutes. Subsequently, the IOC released a statement saying in part that “[s]he explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time.”

As Nadeau’s report notes, a number of questions remain unanswered — but for now, the situation seems less fraught than it was 24 hours ago.