Peng Shuai: International Olympic Committee should center its responsibility to protect athletes
The IOC’s involvement should not repeat the harms of previous contacts with Peng Shuai, but instead needs to center the IOC's responsibility to protect athletes.Julie Ann Rivers-Cochran, executive director of The Army of Survivors
(Nyon, Switzerland, January 31, 2022) – International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach first spoke with Chinese tennis player and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai at a time when no one outside China had been able to make contact. Unfortunately, the danger of her situation has been downplayed, and Bach did not mention Peng’s allegations of sexual abuse publicly on the call.
“The IOC’s involvement should not repeat the harms of previous contacts with Peng Shuai, but instead needs to center the IOC’s responsibility to protect athletes,” said Julie Ann Rivers-Cochran, executive director of The Army of Survivors, a survivor-founded organization formed after the Olympic system’s failure to deal with sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, a doctor for USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee.
Bach reportedly asked Peng Shuai to dinner — a highly inappropriate move that fails to consider the effects of trauma and Peng’s ability to speak freely or consent to this request without pressure. This “dinner and meeting” will reportedly include Li Lingwei, Vice President of the Chinese Olympic Committee.
The IOC has consistently refused to follow advice about Peng’s safety from sexual abuse survivors and China human rights experts. However, there is still time for the IOC to reverse course and use its leverage to advocate for her wellbeing and freedom, Sport & Rights Alliance members said. The IOC needs urgently to ensure an independent, transparent, and trauma-informed investigation into Peng Shuai’s complaint of sexual assault if she so desires.