TOKYO OLYMPIC GAMES – The image will surely be a milestone in the fight against sexual violence in sport. Friday, July 30, while the men’s team épée tournament at the Tokyo Olympics was taking place, several American fencers took a stand, even while one of their teammates was targeted by serious accusations.
Indeed, Alen Hadzic, the replacement for the United States sword team, has been the subject for several months of testimonies according to which they would have committed repeated sexual assaults while he was at Columbia University and that he was leading his studies and his early career in fencing at the same time. Revelations which pushed his team to demand his non-selection for the Olympic Games, request finally refused by the American Olympic Committee.
So as you can see in the tweet below, this Friday his three teammates, Jacob Hoyle, Curtis McDowald and Yeisser Ramirez showed up ahead of their meeting against Japan wearing a pink mask, the color often sported in the United States. as a sign of support for the cause of women’s rights.
#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. #BelieveWomenpic.twitter.com/yRI4azelKN
— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) July 30, 2021
It must be said that even before the start of the Olympic tournament, the question of the presence of Alen Hadzic was invited into the debate in the United States. Qualified in May for the Japanese event, the 29-year-old athlete was shortly afterwards accused by three young women of sexual assault that occurred between 2013 and 2015, when he was a student-athlete. Women, at least two of whom were also students and fencers at Columbia University.
At the time – and if the swordsman refutes the facts with which he is accused – he had nevertheless been suspended for a year by his university, the time for an investigation to take place into these repeated accusations. And after BuzzFeed, who followed the case closely and cross-checked dozens of testimonies, “a set of inappropriate behaviors in terms of sexual conduct and violent acts”, regularly returned to the discussions.
So much so that the US Center for SafeSport, an agency founded in 2017 in the United States to prevent the risks of moral, sexual or physical abuse in high performance sport, took the decision to suspend the fencer on the 2 last june. A decision finally overturned in court a month later, paving the way for Alen Hadzic’s participation in the Olympics.
“I am imagining the possibility that a man accused of sexual assault by three women, charges deemed credible by investigators, could find on an Olympic podium draped in a flag of the United States”, had then regretted the lawyer of one of the accusers of the fencer. “How can we even imagine this kind of thing in 2021? Have we learned nothing from recent years, ”he added, referring to the Larry Nassar affair, a scandal of physical, moral and sexual violence in American gymnastics.
A feeling shared within the American fencing teams. Wearing a pink mask is thus not the only way that the fencers have found to show their firm opposition to the presence of Alen Hadzic in the team and to the decisions taken by the American sports authorities. A few days before the start of the Games, in the columns of BuzzFeed News, the other American fencers had thus deplored that he was selected.
One of them even formally lodged a complaint against Alen Hadzic with his Federation, telling BuzzFeed News: “We are outraged to have to deal with him. He is protected over and over again … ”
Six fencers, including two participating in the Olympics, wrote to the American Olympic Committee to demand that the serious accusations against Alen Hadzic could not allow him to take part in the competition. A request that was rejected, the young man being therefore selected to be the replacement for the men’s épée team.
The only penalties: he was banned from staying in the Olympic Village with the rest of the athletes and was staying in a hotel outside the walls, he also did not travel with the American team and was not allowed to stay. ” train at the same time as female athletes. And at the sporting level, Alen Hadzic will not have played a single minute in the competition, his partners immediately losing to the future Japanese Olympic champions.
See also on the HuffPost: The chilling testimony of skater Anne-Line Rolland sexually assaulted by her trainer