Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has denied every accusing anyone of sexual assault, adding that she herself had deleted her social media post in November that had appeared to make such a claim.
In an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe at a hotel in Beijing, Peng denied making such allegations.
“In the text we could see in Europe, you accused someone of sexual assault. What did you really write? We don’t understand,” the paper asked.
“Sexual assault? I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way,” Peng said, without elaborating.
The wellbeing of Peng, a three-time Olympian, became a matter of concern when she appeared to allege on social media that a former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her in the past.
Peng told the French media outlet it had caused a “huge misunderstanding”, repeating comments reported by a Singapore media outlet in December, and that she did not want “any further media hype” about it.
She also sought to allay fears over her safety, saying her life since November had been “nothing special” and denying she had “disappeared” after the furore when she was not seen in public for weeks.
The 36-year-old Peng thanked fellow tennis professionals, sporting personalities and the wider community for showing concern about her welfare but maintained there was no need to worry.
In her now-deleted post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, Peng had written “why did you take me to your house and force me into having relations with you?”, though she also described the relationship with Zhang as an on-off one that was also consensual.
It led the Women’s Tennis Association to suspend tournaments in China and caused an international outcry about her safety.
Peng has not updated her Weibo account since the post was removed.
In a statement on Monday, the IOC confirmed there had been a meeting with Peng, and said she would attend several Winter Olympics events.
She also planned to travel to Europe after the pandemic and visit the IOC headquarters in Switzerland, it said.
Peng also said that a previous knee injury that had required several rounds of surgery and her age made it unlikely she would compete professionally again.