China’s fifth-ranked tennis player Zhang Gaoli has been ordered to return to China following accusations of sexual harassment of a fellow player, in the latest in a string of scandals involving top-ranked Chinese athletes.
Zhang on Thursday issued a statement saying he had not been given enough time to defend himself against the allegations of sexual harassment by a fellow player, according to CBS News. The case was reported by the South China Morning Post.
The accusations by Peng Shuai against Zhang center on a post-match meal and a dance-off held at the group party held for the runners-up at the China Open. Zhang is a member of the 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medalists team.
“After going to dinner with Peng Shuai’s teammates and family, together with Zhang’s girlfriend, we agreed to have a dance-off at the party,” Peng said in her statement. “I saw Zhang Yingying: He touched me inappropriately, made jokes, and then groped my breast, but instead of giving me a reason to leave, he even invited me back to his room.”
In his statement, Zhang said “I admit that I did touch her on the upper chest,” but claims that Peng made up the story. Zhang said he had invited the woman back to his room to give her one last chance to apologize, and that she had sent “derogatory” and “slanderous” statements about him after her departure.
Zhang defended himself against the charges, denying that he had forcibly groped Peng, accusing Peng of trying to “slander” him after he left her hotel room, and arguing that a written testimony from his accuser could not be trusted as “she wrote it with her hand.”
Zhang said he was going to sue Peng and the China Tennis Association if they did not give him a chance to defend himself. In response, China Tennis issued a statement that Zhang would not be allowed to play international tennis until further notice.
Zhang apologized to Peng Shuai, her mother and the WTA, which, along with the ITF and CTA, sponsored the event.
(Information from The Associated Press and CBS News was used in this report.)