Amid growing international attention to her plight, Chinese state media on Thursday suddenly Email released Peng wrote to Steve Simon, president of the Women’s Tennis Association.
The letter, whose authenticity could not be verified, said Peng was resting at home and never authorized the original “not true” statement to be posted on Weibo.
But in a statement on Thursday, Simon Peng said the letter made him fear more for his safety.
“I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received, or to believe what she was accused of,” he said.
He called for “independent and verifiable proof” of her safety and a full investigation into her claims.
“Peng Shuai should be allowed to speak freely without coercion or intimidation from any source,” Simon said. “Her allegations of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship.”
Simon told CNN that the WTA was prepared to no longer do business with China and would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue if Peng were not counted.
“It’s bigger than business,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the US nonprofit Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by tennis legend Billie Jean King in 1974, told BuzzFeed News that she supported the WTA’s position.
“We are deeply concerned and disturbed by Peng Shuai’s disappearance and her allegations of sexual assault,” the spokesman said. “We support the WTA’s demands for verifiable proof of her safety and that her allegations be respected and investigated with full transparency.”
But the letter was enough for the International Olympic Committee, which has remained largely silent on the three-time Olympian’s disappearance.
“We have seen the latest reports and are encouraged by the hope that he is safe,” an IOC spokesman said on Thursday.
That dreary statement was criticized as frivolous by a wide range of Western media and non-governmental organizations.