Foiled by his 'friends': Three of four US fencers wear PINK masks to protest own teammate accused of sexual assault - sparking furious protest from athlete made to stay outside the Olympic village
A U.S. Olympic fencer who is under investigation for sexual misconduct claims to have confronted two of his teammates after they stood on the Olympic stage wearing pink face masks in what appeared to be a protest of his presence at the Games.
Alen Hadzic, 29, an alternate on the men's epee fencing team, wore a black mask as he was introduced while his three other teammates wore pink ones.
Hadzic, of Montclair, New Jersey, received a temporary suspension from the US Center for SafeSport in June amid an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by three women, including groping, while he was a student at Columbia University between 2013-2015.
Alen Hadzic, 29, left, an alternate on the men's epee fencing team, wore a black mask as he was introduced while his three other teammates, Jake Hoyle, second from left, Curtis McDowald, third from left and Yeisser Ramirez, far right, wore pink ones in protest at being on the team with him while being accused of sexual misconduct
Alen Hadzic, left, can be seen wearing a black facemask. His teammates are pictured, Jake Hoyle, second from left, Curtis McDowald, third from left and Yeisser Ramirez, far right . The team lost 45-39 to Japan
Jake Hoyle, left, and Curtis McDowald of Team United States react to their loss to Team Japan
But he told USA Today that he feels justified in calling out his fellow fencers for their pink protest.
'They never asked me for my side of the story. They never asked for evidence or how I felt,' he said.
Hadzic has maintained his innocence, dismissing the claims against him as 'untruths.'
An arbiter overturned the suspension clearing the way for Hadzic to travel to Japan and compete with the rest of the USA Fencing team.
Judge Sherrie Krauser found that the suspension was 'inappropriate to the allegations,' and concluded that Hadzic's participation in the Tokyo Olympics 'would not be detrimental to the reputation of the United States or his sport.'
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Alen Hadzic, 29, an alternate on the US men's epee fencing team is under an investigation related to sexual misconduct claims
The protest came on Friday just as Hadzic and his three other U.S. men's epee fencers were about to be introduced before their match with Japan.
Fellow fencer Curtis McDowald distributed masks with a black one for Hadzic and pink for the other three.
'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.
Shortly after the U.S. were defeated by Japan a photo was sent to Hadzic in which he realized he had been duped.
'It wasn't really until I saw that picture from the outside view that I realized what was going on,' he said.
Although he was unable to find McDowald, Hadzic says he did manage to confront his epee teammates, Jake Hoyle and Yeisser Ramirez.
American sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad praised Hadzic's teammates on Twitter for taking a stand together with a picture of the photo
'I just told Hoyle I was frankly embarrassed to be his teammate,' Hadzic said. 'I was embarrassed to stand up there with him.'
He claims to have similar to Ramirez: 'I chewed him out over it. I told him it wasn't cool.'
American sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad praised Hadzic's teammates on Twitter for taking a stand together with a picture of the photo.
'Team USA 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'
Hadzic said in a complaint that he had to fly by himself to Tokyo, lodge in a hotel a 25-minute drive away from Olympic Village (pictured), and to train apart from fellow fencers
Last week, Hadzic claimed he has been unjustly isolated from the rest of his team competing in Tokyo and forced to stay in a hotel 25 minutes away from the Olympic Village as a result of the sexual misconduct claims.
An official complaint filed by Hadzic alleges that the governing body of his sport forced him to fly by himself to Tokyo, lodge in a hotel located a 25-minute drive away from the Olympic Village, and train apart from his fellow fencers.
USA Fencing responded to Hadzic's complaint by saying that 'team athletes have expressed concerns for their safety and well-being arising from [Hadzic's] presence.'
Hadzic, pictured competing in the Men's Epee World Cup in February 2020, has been accused of sexual misconduct by three women between 2013 and 2015
Hadzic's attorney, Michael Palma, wrote in the complaint that USA Fencing wants to 'hide' his client and 'keep him from participating in the Olympic experience that he has rightfully earned.'
Hadzic came under scrutiny after three women came forward, accusing him of sexual misconduct between 2013 and 2015.
One woman accused Hadzic of unspecified offenses in 2013, while the two were attending Columbia University.
Hadzic was suspended from the university for a year during a Title IX investigation, but he was ultimately allowed to resume his studies and graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor's degree in business.
That same year, a second woman claimed that Hadzic groped her buttocks and pushed her against a dresser.
Speaking to USA Today Sports, the second accuser slammed the decision to lift Hadzic's suspension and permit him to represent the US in the Olympics amid an ongoing SafeSport investigation.
'I think one case is enough for you to not be allowed to compete at the f***ing Olympics,' she said. 'It really makes you question how far someone needs to go in order for them not to be able to compete.'
Hadzic was suspended by US Center for SafeSport in June, but an arbiter lifted his suspension, allowing him to compete in Tokyo
The CEO of USA Fencing explained in an email to Hadzic that the organization did not have the authority to sideline him from the Tokyo Games, but it has put a 'safety plan' in place in response to complaints from several athletes who have expressed concerns 'for their safety and well-being arising from your presence...'
Palma said USA Fencing has known about the misconduct allegations against his client for years but has allowed Hadzic to take part in fencing competitions all over the world without any restrictions until now.
Hadzic, who founded a clinical research company last year, qualified for the Tokyo Games in May after narrowly missing a spot on Team USA for the 2016 Olympics, reported the New York Times.