IOC reverses decision to lift Peng Shuai ban for coach dispute

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An IOC commission that had ruled against China’s Peng Shuai in her dispute with her coach has taken a U-turn, the US-based human rights organisation Human Rights Watch has said.

Human Rights Watch said the IOC’s September decision to overturn that decision was “fundamentally inconsistent with the principles of sport and international law”.

The Chinese winter sports athlete was charged with retaliation after missing a practice session in February following the coach’s request for her to be disqualified from the winter sport world championships in Poland.

She then proceeded to win bronze in the giant slalom at the championships on 7 February.

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The Beijing-based New Normal Sports group said China’s ban on the athlete and her coach was part of a campaign to silence private dissent.

According to a statement by the group, Peng’s coach made four demands, including that Peng immediately be banned from the Winter Olympics.

“The IOC commission overlooked the facts and unfairly compromised its credibility by siding with China’s attempts to silence the voices of private individuals and deprive them of their internationally recognised right to free speech,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

“As the international Olympic movement increasingly engages in propaganda, it should engage in dialogue and civility with the Chinese government on better rights protections,” she said.

Human Rights Watch asked the IOC, Peng, and her coach to consider the totality of the case and “refrain from providing favourable treatment” to China.

Last month, Peng said she still wished to meet the IOC president, Thomas Bach, to discuss the issue.

A China Olympics official told the US-based Associated Press last month that “the issue is closed, China has firmly supported Peng Shuai and backed her in the key decisions and practices that facilitated her position”.

She, however, declined to say whether the IOC agreed with that stand.

“I can not speak to the IOC about the future of the dispute,” Peng said.

The sports lawyer Wu Hyun-woo on Friday told AP that the IOC “did not abide by the letter or the spirit of its own legal, ethical, political and moral rules”.

The lawyer, who was not aware of the contents of the ruling, said Chinese sports authorities had long defended the Peng case in court.

“I think the outcry of a wide range of stakeholders made the IOC and the Chinese federation think twice about reopening the case,” he said.

• This article was amended on 21 October 2017 to restore Peng’s name and avoid any ambiguity.

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