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Three members of the U.S. men’s fencing team made a powerful statement on Friday, donning pink masks in an apparent protest of their fourth teammate, Alen Hadzic.
Hadzic, 29, joined the team in Tokyo as an alternate even though he is currently under investigation for sexual misconduct, and it has clearly rubbed his teammates the wrong way.
Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald and Yeisser Ramirez, the other three members of the team, stood coordinated in their pink masks while Hadzic sported a black one.
#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
It was announced Hadzic made the U.S. Olympic fencing team on May. 7, but that was when his accusers came forward to SafeSport — an organization that investigates sexual abuse in Olympic Sport — and Hadzic was suspended on June 2.
However, after Hadzic appealed, an arbitrator overturned the suspension on June 29 and he was permitted to attend the Games.
The allegations against Hadzic date back to when he was a student at Columbia University between the years of 2013 and 2015. In 2013, he was accused of sexual misconduct by one of his female fencing teammates and was suspended from the school for one year due to a Title IX investigation.
Hadzic has consistently denied the allegations, telling USA Today that "they’re just frankly not true.”
While he was permitted to join the team in Tokyo, it was not without its caveats.
Hadzic has been banned from staying at the Olympic Village and has been staying in a hotel away from the other athletes. He was also forced to travel to the Games separately from his teammates.
The move was made by USA Fencing and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee as part of a “safety plan” because of the allegations against Hadzic.
For some, these limitations were not nearly enough.
One of Hadzic’s accusers spoke to USA Today, and was furious he was still going to be allowed to represent his country at the Games.
“I think one case is enough for you to not be allowed to compete at the f****** Olympics,” the accuser said. “It really makes you question how far someone needs to go in order for them not to be able to compete.’’
Clearly, Hadzic’s teammates were on board with that sentiment.
Team USA lost their final match to Japan on Friday, officially ending their Olympics with a ninth-place finish.
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