Speaking on 60 Minutes Australia, Chinese diplomat Victor Gao has controversially claimed that Peng Shuai's height and physicality make it impossible for her to be a victim of sexual assault.
Peng, 36, made waves in the tennis world after accusing former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault late last year. Peng "disappeared" soon after, prompting cries of outrage from fans and tennis players alike demanding her safe return.
The two-time doubles Grand Slam champion has since returned to the public eye but has not left China. Peng attended the ongoing Winter Olympics in Beijing and spoke to French newspaper L'Equipe during the event. She claimed she never made sexual abuse allegations and that her statements were blown out of proportion.
Gao, meanwhile, had a rather controversial take on Peng's situation, claiming it would be impossible for the 36-year-old to be sexually abused because of her physical stature.
"She is a very successful athlete and physically she can handle things better than many other women," Gao said. "Because of the maturity of her mind and the maturity of her physical condition, she can take care of herself and she can defend herself in front of whatever man or persons in China."
"Physically she is very strong, she is a very tall person. She is taller than I am. So for a person my height trying to take advantage of Peng Shuai, forget about it. You're indulging in fantasy."
He also said Peng appeared in public for several years without showing signs of abuse.
"Whatever happened was way after she was 18 years old. The incident reported on the internet didn't happen one week ago, it happened years ago. Throughout this period of time she was a free person, there was no sign of her being harrassed."
Peng Shuai announced her retirement from tennis in February
Peng Shuai recently announced her retirement from tennis in an interview with L'Equipe. The two-time doubles Grand Slam champion said she will always be a tennis player even if she does not compete in tournaments.
"Tennis has transformed my life, brought me joy, challenges and so much more. It is sometimes difficult to know how to say goodbye and to retire," Peng said. "Many people ask me this question. Even if I no longer participate in professional competitions, I will forever be a tennis player."
Former World No. 1 Chris Evert recently claimed that Peng's freedom has been taken away and that she will continue to believe so until the Chinese athlete is allowed to leave her home country.