After the recent allegations of sexual assault against Team USA fencer Alen Hadzic, USA Fencing suspended the fencer indefinitely.
Read this article for more information about the allegations, how Team USA will stay safe in the Olympic Village, and the impact the case could have on Team USA’s performance in Tokyo.
USA Fencing suspends Team USA fencer Alen Hadzic
A report published Monday by USA Fencing revealed that a Team USA fencer has been suspended for sexual assault. The suspension is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by athletes. The organization has a long history of sexual misconduct, but this case is particularly shocking because it came just months after an Olympic team doctor was sentenced to life in prison for a series of sex crimes. Three women accuse Hadzic of sexual misconduct, two of whom he knew at Columbia University.
The suspension comes after three female fencers filed complaints with the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an organization that investigates allegations of sexual assault and harassment in Olympic-affiliated athletic organizations. The center suspended Hadzic temporarily on June 2, but he appealed the decision and won a spot on the Olympic roster.
The United States Center for SafeSport initially suspended Hadzic for two months without explanation. His eligibility was reinstated only after he filed an appeal with an arbitrator. He was also not allowed to stay in the Olympic Village. The organization also said on its web site that they were concerned about Hadzic’s safety.
Allegations against Hadzic
Allegations against Hadzic as a US fencer are a complex web of allegations that span several years. The first accuser filed the complaint in 2013 and was not charged, but had Hadzic suspended from Columbia University for Title IX violations, and then was allowed to resume his studies. He graduated from Columbia in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in business. A second woman has come forward, accusing Hadzic of inappropriate touching, and criticizing the decision of SafeSport to lift Hadzic’s suspension and let him compete for the US.
The allegations against Hadzic have also raised questions about the effectiveness of USA Fencing’s safety plan. Despite the fact that the sport has an internal process for reporting cases of sexual abuse, allegations of sexual assault against the US fencer have caused outrage. While some fencers have defended Hadzic’s conduct, others have said it was unacceptable.
According to Buzzfeed, Hadzic has been accused of sexual assault by several women. A report authored by the magazine detailed allegations against Hadzic and showed a long list of victims. Some of the women claimed that Hadzic targeted drunk women at parties. Despite the complaints, Hadzic continued to compete in fencing, and he appealed his suspension.
Safety plan for Hadzic in the Olympic Village
US fencer Hadzic was never told about the safety plan for his teammates in the Olympic Village before the Games began. Instead, the team was left to figure it out themselves. That included the placement of the fencer in an off-campus hotel and the scheduling of training sessions to avoid conflict with other female team members. The safety plan also did not mention that Hadzic would be allowed into the village.
SafeSport is now investigating the incident. The US fencer has been suspended after an accusation was made against him. The USA fencing team is under probation supervision as a result of the allegations and is regulating the behavior of its members. USA Fencing and SafeSport have not issued a formal explanation for the suspension or the fact that Hadzic has been suspended.
The fencing community was aware of Hadzic’s disturbed reputation from his time at Columbia University. Multiple allegations were made against him and were reported to the US Center for SafeSport. The team’s decision to keep Hadzic away from women was a result of the allegations. However, Hadzic’s attorneys appealed the decision and are seeking the right to be in the village.
Impact on Team USA’s performance in Tokyo
USA fencing is being forced to investigate the impact of a female fencer’s sexual assault on the team’s performance at the Tokyo Olympics. Hadzic, a fencer from West Orange, is competing in the Summer Games despite being under investigation for sexual misconduct. He is barred from the athletes’ village and has been isolated from the rest of the team. The organization, USA Fencing, imposed a “safety plan” that restricted Hadzic’s movements and put him in a hotel in Tokyo.
The athletes were given a mandatory meeting to discuss the impact of the incident. They were given tips on travel logistics, coronavirus protocol and how to speak to the media. However, the fencers were concerned that the investigation would be too slow. After the meeting, the fencers began texting each other.
The USA Fencing officials scrambled to implement new protocols and safeguards in advance of the Tokyo Olympics. They did not inform the fencers that the plan was to separate Hadzic from his teammates. They were frantically trying to figure out how many legal protections Hadzic needed to be safe without violating Hadzic’s rights.