Who is Alen Hadzic? Olympic fencer accused of sexual assault rebukes teammates for pink protest
The US men's epee fencing team at the Tokyo Olympics grabbed headlines ahead of their match against Japan on Friday, July 30, after three athletes wore pink masks to protest against sexual harassment allegations against their teammate. Their fourth teammate Alen Hazdic, had been accused of sexual misconduct by three women and is currently under investigation. His inclusion in the Olympic fencing squad despite such serious allegations prompted the other three Olympians to voice their protest and express solidarity with the survivors.
Fencers Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald and Yeisser Ramirez donned pink masks as they approached the Olympic stage, accompanied by Hadzic himself in a black mask. The team conceded to Japan in a 45-39 loss, following which Hadzic reportedly confronted his teammates. The 29-year-old athlete later told USA Today that he felt it was justified to call out his teammates' pink protest. Dismissing the allegations against him, he further added, "They never asked me for my side of the story. They never asked for evidence or how I felt."
#TeamUSA men’s epee team wore pink masks for their opening match at the Olympics as a show of support for sexual assault victims. Alen Hadzic— their teammate accused of rape and sexual assault— is on the left. Kudos to the team for taking a stand. #BelieveWomen pic.twitter.com/yRI4azelKN— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) July 30, 2021
Who is Alen Hadzic?
Hadzic, a four-time Division 1 Individual Champion in fencing, is a 2017 graduate from Vlerick Business School, Belgium. Prior to that, he attended Columbia University to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. The 2015 Columbia graduate faced allegations of sexual misconduct from three women — who claimed that they were sexually abused and even groped by Hadzic at Columbia University.
An investigation was launched against the champion fencer which prompted the US Center for SafeSport to temporarily suspend Hadzic from the fencing team. However, later, judge Sherrie Krauser ruled that the suspension was "inappropriate to the allegations" and allowed him to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It was further inferred that his participation "would not be detrimental to the reputation of the United States of his sport." At the Olympics, Hadzic was isolated from his team and forced to stay in a hotel 25 minutes away from the Olympic village. The step was taken due to the sexual misconduct claims against him, but he dubbed the move as unjust.
The 29-year-old athlete from Montclair, New Jersey, had consistently maintained his innocence, dubbing the accusations as "untruths". However, he had little idea about his teammates' plan to protest against his participation. In fact, when fellow fencer Curtis McDowald was distributing the masks — with three pink ones and a black one for Hadzic — he even asked for a pink one.
"I just remember thinking it would be kind of silly if I stood out there with a black mask and I asked them if they had an extra pink one, and they go, "Oh, no," Hadzic said. He added, "It wasn't really until I saw that picture from the outside view that I realized what was going on. I just told Hoyle I was frankly embarrassed to be his teammate. I was embarrassed to stand up there with him." He also told Ramirez that the gesture was not cool.