Former women’s doubles number one player Peng Shuai has been banned from competitive tennis for six months and fined US $10,000 after being found guilty of breaching the game’s anti-corruption rules.
However, in what may be the first incident of its kind, Shuai’s offence is not related to trying to fix the result of a match but, instead, is focused on attempts she made to get her own doubles partner not to play.
The event in question dates back to Wimbledon last year when Shuai was due to play the doubles’ event with Belgian Alison van Uytvanck. However, Shuai, two-time Asian Games gold-medallist and a doubles winner at Wimbledon and French Open, and her coach Bertrand Perret, were then alerted to the availability of Sania Mirza, and, believing that her chances in the tournament would be greatly enhanced if she were to play with the Indian, tried to drop van Uytvanck after the player sign-in time had elapsed.
What happens next is the subject of some debate, with van Uytvanck claiming that she and her coach Alain de Vos were stalked day and night by Shuai, using a combination of coercion and the offer of financial reward to persuade the Belgian to drop out.
For her part, Shuai, who ended-up not playing in the doubles at all finally, flatly denies the accusations, and arguing that it was completely van Uytvanck’s decision to pull out of the tournament.
Nevertheless, de Vos made a formal complaint to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) which has now reached its verdict and found that Shuai did indeed breach the rules of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TAIP) and must be sanctioned accordingly.
The Chinese player has, therefore, been banned until November 8th, with the remaining three months of her sentence suspended on condition that she does not re-offend. Her coach, Perret, has also been slapped with a three-month ban for his role in the affair.
Shuai continues to protest her innocence and is considering an appeal, whilst van Uytvanck is happy that her integrity has been upheld saying on Twitter: “Since I was a little girl, tennis has been everything for me. Therefore, I want the sport to be/stay clean in all its ways”.
— Alison Van Uytvanck (@AlisonVanU) August 12, 2018
Neutrals will be glad that such a breach of the rules has been punished, but may be entitled to ask why it took the authorities so long to investigate, and reach a judgement on, an incident that happened more than twelve months ago.