US Olympic fencer accused of sexual misconduct and is kept apart from team

Other American fencers expressed concerns about Alen Hadzic’s presence and a desire to keep him apart to minimise distractions

 Alen Hadzic: “they’re just frankly not true” he said of the accusations of sexual misconduct. Photograph:  Devin Manky/Getty Images

Alen Hadzic: “they’re just frankly not true” he said of the accusations of sexual misconduct. Photograph: Devin Manky/Getty Images

 

Alen Hadzic is an alternate in the men’s épée event with the US Olympic fencing team. But while facing accusations of sexual impropriety, which he denies but which remain unresolved, he has been kept apart from his teammates in Tokyo.

Hadzic (29), who grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, had to fly separately, his lawyer said; has not been permitted to stay in the Olympic Village; and must train and reside at a remote hotel. This precaution was taken for the safety and well-being of other American fencers who expressed concerns about Hadzic’s presence and a desire to minimise distractions, according to USA Fencing.

The case reflects the complicated, awkward and sometimes acrimonious efforts by the US Olympic movement to judiciously handle claims of sexual abuse three years after Larry Nassar, who was a doctor for the American women’s gymnastics team, was essentially sentenced to life in prison for committing multiple sex crimes.

Hadzic faces accusations of sexual impropriety by three women in incidents that occurred from 2013-15. At least two of the women were fencers who knew Hadzic during their careers at Columbia University.

He was temporarily suspended from any fencing activities on June 2nd by the US Center for SafeSport. The non-profit was created as an independent agency in 2017 to safeguard athletes in Olympic-related sports from sexual, emotional and physical abuse. His chances of participating in the Tokyo Games appeared to be gone.

Arbitrator

But Hadzic appealed, and his suspension was overturned by an arbitrator on June 29th, restoring his Olympic eligibility. The arbitrator left in place a directive for Hadzic not to contact his accusers, but ruled that his suspension was “inappropriate to the allegations” and found that his participation on the Olympic team would not be “detrimental to the reputation of the United States or his sport”.

He will compete in Tokyo as a replacement in the individual or team épée competition if a teammate gets hurt or becomes ill.

Referring to the accusations of sexual misconduct, Hadzic told USA Today, which first reported details of the case Wednesday, “they’re just frankly not true”.

Hadzic’s lawyer, Michael Palma, who is based in Florida, said in an interview that he would argue at an arbitration hearing on Thursday to end what he called an unfounded segregation imposed on his client in Tokyo.

He said USA Fencing was attempting to hide Hadzic to avoid negative publicity and was keeping him “from participating in the Olympic experience that he has rightfully earned”.

Thumbs-up

After narrowly missing a spot on the US fencing team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Hadzic qualified for the Tokyo Games on May 7th. He smiled and gave a thumbs-up gesture while being photographed for USA Fencing’s Instagram page. Soon, though, accusations of sexual misconduct were posted on the page and elsewhere on social media, accusing him of being a predator and a rapist.

His lawyer said Hadzic had never committed a sexual assault and had never been charged with rape or with any civil or criminal complaint involving sexual impropriety.

Hadzic was suspended from Columbia for the 2013-14 year after a Title IX investigation involving sexual consent, Palma said. He called the proceeding a “kangaroo court” in which Hadzic was not allowed to call witnesses or present character statements.

– New York Times

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