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'difficult situation'

Olympic committee says 2nd call with tennis star Peng Shuai 'reconfirmed' that she 'appeared to be safe'

The International Olympic Committee says it has held another video call with tennis star Peng Shuai after the Women's Tennis Association again expressed "serious doubts" that she's safe.

The IOC said on Thursday that it had a Wednesday video call with Peng, the tennis star who went missing after she accused a former Chinese official of sexual assault. The Olympic organization also spoke with Peng last month, and released a still photo from the video call. During the first call, she "explained her situation and appeared to be safe and well, given the difficult situation she is in," and this was "reconfirmed" on Wednesday's call, the IOC said.

This came after the Women's Tennis Association, which has been pushing for greater assurances about Peng's safety and an investigation into her sexual assault allegations, on Wednesday announced it would suspend tournaments in China, as officials have failed to "verifiably prove that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or intimidation." WTA CEO Steve Simon said he still has "serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation." Her assault claims were censored in China.

A statement attributed to Peng was released by Chinese state media last month, which claimed that "everything is fine" and walked back her assault allegations. Simon dismissed this as a "staged statement." While suspending tournaments in China, he said he can't "ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault." 

The IOC on Thursday defended its approach to situation, saying it shares "the same concern" about Peng but is "using 'quiet diplomacy.'" The committee said it will "stay in regular touch with" Peng and has a "personal meeting" planned for January.