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Why Team USA Fencer Alen Hadzic Was Ordered To Stay Away From Female Athletes Under Olympics 'Safety Plan'

Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 3.0
Alen Hadzic

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee denied Becca Myers’ request to bring a Personal Care Assistant to the Paralympics — but a rich, white man alleged to be a serial sexual abuser is allowed to attend?

Uh, O.K. Olympics.

Alen Hadzic, currently under investigation for at least three sexual misconduct accusations, managed to secure a spot representing the US as an alternate fencer at the Tokyo Olympics.

Sha'Carri Richardson was barred from the competition for testing positive for cannabis use and Black athletes have been banned from wearing the kind of swim caps that are best suited for their hair and braids, but just when you thought real life couldn't get more appalling, Alen Hadzic gets to pass go with a shiny a get out of jail card-free card — and a not-so-safe safety plan for the women who have no choice but to possibly encounter him.

What did Alen Hadzic do?

Team USA fencer Hadzic is facing three sexual misconduct allegations and, according to reporters investigating the New Jersey native, has shown a pattern of violence and sexual misconduct dating back ten years.

Sexual misconduct allegations again Hadzic date back to 2010.

Those in the fencing community claim to have been aware of Hadzic's disturbed reputation since he was in his first year at Columbia University.

A former Columbia captain reported that Hadzic could “turn off and on like a light switch” and was “very scary to be around.”

Katya English, a former fencer who dateed Hadzic during their first year of college alleges that when she asked him to stop what until then had been a consensual encounter, he berated and pressured her into continuing, an experience she says she now understands was "a form of sexual coercion."

“If I were a woman in Tokyo,” English said, “I would absolutely demand security if he was going to be on the premises.”

Another 12 women who knew Hadzic at that same time shared various similar allegations, saying he followed them "into bedrooms at parties, ignoring multiple rebuffs while trying to kiss them, and touching them without consent."

Then in 2013, a fencer "formally accused Hadzic of sexually abusing her in a dorm room during a party." He was suspended from Columbia's campus for one year, though fencers interviewed by BuzzFeed say he "ignored the rules of his suspension and would often linger around campus and pop up at parties and hangouts."

Multiple additional allegations against Hadzic poured into the US Center for SafeSport, the nonprofit agency responsible for protecting athletes from abuse, over the years that followed.

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Hadzic has denied the allegations.

"Frankly, they’re untruths,'' Hadzic said in denial of the accusations against him, "They’re just frankly not true."

As the Games continue, Hadzic and his attorneys have been appealing decisions to keep him out of the Olympic village in spite of protests from female athletes.

"Maybe one or two girls are just taking the side of, I don’t want to be around him, which sucks for Alen, because at the end of the day, when’s the next time he’s going to be able to partake in this kind of experience?" his attorney said seemingly unironically.

These "one or two girls" are actually a crowd of Olympic athletes trying to hold Hadzic accountable for the allegations.

Olympians have raised concerns over Hadzic's alleged behavior.

Six women fencers wrote to the Olympic Committee ten days after Hadzic’s spot on the team was made official.

"We are gravely concerned about the impact Mr. Hadzic's potential presence will have on other Team USA athletes," they wrote, arguing that his inclusion was a "direct affront" to their fellow athletes.

This was on May 20, 2021. Two months later, nothing has changed — which is as outrageous as it is oddly unsurprising.

On June 2nd, 2021, the United States Center for SafeSport suspended Hadzic from all fencing activities.

Hadzic fought to appeal his suspension, and an independent arbitrator restored his eligibity to compete in the Summer Games

To "acknowledge the severity" of these allegations, the athletic federation created a "safety plan" to keep Hadzic as far from women competitors as possible. Yikes.

What is the safety plan put in place to protect female athletes from Alen Hadzic?

Under the terms of the so-called safety plan, Hadzic was required to fly on a separate plane from his teammates (which sounds more like a luxury than punishment), he must stay at a hotel thirty minutes outside of the Olympic Village and he is forbidden from practicing alongside women teammates.

Hadzic attempted to appeal those restrictions as well, but in response, the entire roster of Team USA fencers fought to appeal his appeal, signing a letter demanding that his suspension remain intact.

The restrictions were upheld.

Nothing screams safety like allowing someone accused of sexual misconduct to participate in the Olympics even as women are fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms.

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Some Olympic fencers have criticized the "safety plan."

One of the fencers told BuzzFeed News, "If this had been dealt with in the way that it should have been, he should have not even had the opportunity to try to make the Olympic team. And now we have to deal with the consequences of having a predator on the team," he said, "while simultaneously competing in the biggest event of our lives. And I think that's a very unfair position to put us in."

“We are pissed off that this is even a thing we had to deal with,” another Olympic fencer said, one of many who filed a complaint against Hadzic. “He’s been protected again and again.”

Hadzic has yet to address the ongoing outrage over his place at the Olympics, however, his silence on the matter hasn't stopped anyone from tweeting up a storm.

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Izzy Casey is a writer who covers pop culture for YourTango. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work has been published in The Iowa Review, BOAAT, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, The Columbia Review, and New York Tyrant.