The WTA have issued a statement regarding the disappearance of former French Open doubles champion Peng Shuai, as concerns continue to grow around her whereabouts.
Shuai wrote her name into the tennis history books back in 2014, after she claimed the doubles title at Roland Garros alongside her playing partner Su-Wei Hsieh.
However, many across the sport are now extremely concerned for her welfare following her disappearance earlier this week.
Via an upload on Chinese social media site Weibo, Shuai wrote a lengthy post claiming that her nation’s former vice premier Zhang Gaoli forced her in to having sex with him.
The post from the tennis star has since been deleted, along with all of her other recent posts – with even the Mandarin word for tennis – ‘wangqiu’ – being censored on the site too.
During the brave statement Shuai said that despite having no evidence of their relationship, she would continue to speak the truth whatever the senior politician did in an attempt to silence her.
She wrote: “You’ve said you are not afraid. But even as an egg hurled at a rock, a moth to a flame for self-destruction, I will speak the truth with you.”
Now her sport’s principal organising body the WTA have released a statement voicing their concerns on the Shuai’s whereabouts, and the importance of women’s accusations not being censored.
Steve Simon, chief executive and chairman of the WTA said: “The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern.
“As an organization dedicated to women, we remain committed to the principles we were founded on – equality, opportunity and respect.”
Simon went on to add that the accusation made by the 35-year-old should be taken with the ‘utmost seriousness’ and not be ignored.
He commented: “Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.
“In all societies, the behavior she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored.”
The chief executive also offered his praise to the tennis star for having the ‘courage’ to stand up and voice her accusation, reassuring that the organisation’s ‘unwavering priority’ is the health and safety of their players.
Simon continued: “We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward. Women around the world are finding their voices so injustices can be corrected.
“We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.
Our absolute and unwavering priority is the health and safety of our players. We are speaking out so justice can be done.”
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