The ITF don't want to "punish a billion people"
As scrutiny of the Chinese lack of transparency on Peng Shuai grows, it seems that the ITF would prefer not to ruffle any feathers.
While their has been intense demand for full disclosure as to the Chinese tennis player's condition, there are some who are calling for a more conservative approach.
The ITF supports the IOC's 'quiet diplomacy' approach
International Tennis Federation president David Haggerty, a member of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee board of directors, has thrown his support behind the IOC's call for behind-the-scenes negotiations with Chinese sporting bodies in what they say is an effort to ensure the well-being of Peng Shuai. Haggerty, told the BBC that the tennis organization does not "want to punish a billion people" to resolve the case of Peng, who has essentially disappeared from public following her sexual assault accusation of a former senior Communist Party official.
The USOPC and IOC are towing the line
The statement made by Haggerty does to some extent complicate matters for the USOPC who are less than two weeks away from their board meeting. As with the majority of similar organizations sending athletes to Beijing, the USOPC is trying to maintain diplomacy as it balances between reaffirming its commitment to the rights of athletes while simultaneously trying to avoid the provocation of the Chinese are of course the hosts. Regardless it would be illogical to think that the USOPC will not be called upon to confirm their position on the Peng case. Even more so due to the fact that in recent years they have heavily promoted ideals such as athlete safety, well-being and mental health.
A boycott, Chinese reaction and the WTA
These latest developments follow an official White House announcement this week, which advised that there would diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Games to protest Chinese human rights abuses. China in turn responded by saying there would be "firm countermeasures."
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It now seems clear that Haggerty would rather adhere to the rhetoric of diplomacy, than take a stance as did the Women's Tennis Association. The organization took the step of suspending all of it's tournaments in China last week. Haggerty it must be said now holds positions in both the IOC and USOPC due to his role with the ITF. As a result of posts he is actually in control of the organization which manages Davis Cup and Olympic tennis.
Could it be that the basis of the ITF's narrative is grounded in their effort to maintain good standing with the Chinese sporting bodies? Interestingly, Haggerty also told the BBC that the ITF stands for women's rights as he spoke a standard IOC refrain saying they "will continue to work behind the scenes and directly to bring this to resolution." He went on to add, "But you have to remember that the ITF is the governing body of the sport worldwide, and one of the things that we are responsible for is grassroots development," he said. "We don't want to punish a billion people, so we will continue to run our junior events in the country and our senior events that are there for the time being."
What do we know of Peng Shuai?
To date the IOC has claimed that it participated in two video calls with Peng and that she appeared to be "doing fine." The organization has, however, failed to release any video or transcripts of the calls and has not referenced her sexual assault allegation against a former Chinese government official. The three-time Olympian and former No. 1 in doubles continues to remain out of public view.