The US Olympic fencing team in uproar over handling of sexual assault claims against one of its members

Alen Hadzic

Summary List Placement

In May, Alen Hadžić narrowly clinched a spot on the US Men’s Olympic fencing team. As the designated alternate in men’s épée — the largest, heaviest sword used in fencing — he is in line to represent his country on the international stage in the event of an injury or other unforeseen circumstance, like a positive COVID-19 test, that might prevent one of his teammates from competing.

But after USA Fencing announced the 29-year-old New Jersey native’s qualification, multiple fencers and coaches came forward — several of them former teammates of Hadžić’s at Columbia University — slamming the announcement on Instagram. 

 “Rapist. Shame on you, @usfencing,” wrote former Columbia fencer Mason Speta in her Instagram post, an allegation echoed by Eric Hansen, a former UCLA fencing coach. Speta’s teammate, Katie Angen, wrote that Hadžić’s entry was “unacceptable,” and claimed Hadžić was known to “pursue the drunkest woman at the party” and had racked up “more than 20 accounts” of misconduct. Eventually, USA Fencing closed the comments on the post.

After the posts appeared, the US Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit organization in charge of handling sexual misconduct allegations within Olympic sports, launched an investigation into Hadžić. According to USA Today, at least three women came forward to SafeSport with claims of sexual misconduct against Hadžić dating back to 2013. SafeSport suspended him on June 2. 

But less than a month later, on June 28, an arbitrator lifted the suspension, finding that the accusations against Hadžić were too old to merit barring him from competition and that his participation in the Olympics would not be “detrimental to the reputation of the United States or his sport,” according to USA Today. Five sources close to the investigation told Insider that none of Hadžić’s accusers was asked to give evidence at the hearing, which cleared him to travel to Tokyo as part of the U.S. Olympic team.

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But even though Hadžić is in Tokyo, the probe into the allegations against him continues, Insider has learned. Two sources close to the SafeSport investigation told Insider that SafeSport had not even completed interviews with at least two of Hadžić’s accusers when the arbitrator lifted the suspension. USA Fencing has implemented a “safety plan” during the games that requires Hadžić to stay at a hotel a 25-minute drive from his teammates in the Olympic Village, according to USA Today and multiple sources that spoke to Insider.

Men’s épée begins in Tokyo on Sunday, and Hadžić’s qualification is in contrast to other Olympians forbidden from the 2020 Games. Keith Sanderson, a three-time Olympic shooter who was sanctioned for sexual misconduct, was barred from competition. (According to the OC Register, SafeSport reinstated a previously lifted suspension against Sanderson after learning the Southern California News Group was set to publish an investigation into claims against him.)

Women’s track stars Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, ranked first and third worldwide in the 400-meter dash, were barred from the Games because their natural testosterone levels were deemed too high by World Athletics

Source:: Businessinsider – Sports


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