Ex-State Department official blasts WTA: How is Maria Sharapova allowed to play while Peng Shuai is banned?

Warning: the following article contains graphic language.

Rodney Smith, a former U.S. State Department official who helped negotiate a prisoner swap with Libya, was baffled when he heard the Women’s Tennis Association stood behind Maria Sharapova — but opposed Peng Shuai’s banishment.

As far as Smith, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is concerned, that makes women’s tennis’ governing body a champion of human rights.

“I mean this is a world class sport, and the players should be given the same opportunities regardless of gender,” Smith told the Associated Press. “But I do understand, I think they (WTA) are evolving, they are trying to grow the sport in an important way. It’s important they are looked to as leaders and icons in women’s sports.”

He also insisted Sharapova’s suspension should have been longer than two years, and should not be the precedent for female tennis players.

“I would like to see that as the beginning of a long series of steps by the WTA for women’s rights in all sports, not just tennis,” Smith said.

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