Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, is accusing the International Olympic Committee of “sportswashing” for allowing a Chinese gymnast who had been punished for sexual abuse to compete in the Rio Olympics.
At a news conference in New York on Wednesday, HRW described Olympic body as “[far from] upholding the values of the Games that they host.”
Peng Shuai, who is one of China’s best-known female gymnasts, was one of a number of gymnasts to rise to prominence in the 2008 Olympics.
Just weeks after the games, however, Peng was arrested and forced to retire from competition in response to a female gymnast’s claim that she had been coerced by Peng into a sexual relationship when she was 16 years old.
According to authorities, Peng’s partner in the alleged sexual relationship, Lei Yifei, also a gymnast, is also set to participate in the 2017 world championships later this year.
“[Ms. Peng] was seemingly subject to a power play by a young gymnast she befriended in 2008 and was one of many forced to leave her sport by the Chinese Olympic Committee,” HRW’s director for the Asia division Sophie Richardson said in a statement.
In December 2015, a Chinese appeals court upheld Peng’s two-year suspended prison sentence for accepting gifts in exchange for sexual favors.
“In the eyes of the Chinese authorities, the crime of human trafficking demands a one-year suspension from the Chinese national team, not a two-year suspension from the world of elite gymnastics,” Ms. Richardson added.
Comments have been left with the IOC.
Fox News’ John Phillips contributed to this report.