Three men on the U.S. épée team took a stand against teammate Alen Hadzic, who has been included in the Olympics despite sexual assault allegations against him.
According to Buzzfeed News, the three fencers– Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald, and Yeisser Ramirez– all donned pink masks on Friday during their opening match against Tokyo to protest Hadzic’s participation. Hadzic wore a regular black mask. “The disdain was clear,” a source told Buzzfeed News. “They decided to make a statement that they were not standing for him being there,” said another fencing athlete not competing in the Tokyo Olympics. “They wanted to make a distinction between themselves that they didn’t stand for sexual assault or abuse against women. These athletes wanted to have a voice where US Fencing and SafeSport failed.”
Despite the three allegations of sexual misconduct against him, Hadzic was chosen as an alternate on the men’s épée team for the 2020 Olympics, which caused outrage amongst his fellow U.S.A. fencers. Six female fencers, including two Olympic athletes, urged the International Olympic Committee to not allow him to participate in the games. They called his inclusion “a direct affront” to other athletes. “We are gravely concerned about the impact Mr. Hadzic’s potential presence will have on other Team U.S.A. athletes,” the women wrote on May 20.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport, the agency that protects athletes from any sort of abuse, suspended Hadzic from the Olympics last month due to the ongoing investigation, but Hadzic fought tooth and nail to get his prohibition lifted. USA Fencing then created a “safety plan” to keep Hadzic away from women that included him residing separately from the other athletes at the Olympic village. Hadzic has denied the allegations, telling USA Today that “they’re untruths.”