Fencer Alen Hadzic cleared to compete despite sexual assault allegations

After more than a year of investigating Alen Hadzic, the elite fencer who made it to the Olympics last year despite multiple allegations of sexual assault, the US Center for SafeSport has finally released a development in the case: A no-contact directive between the athlete and the victim, meaning he is still able to compete while the investigation continues, according to documents exclusively obtained by BuzzFeed News.

On Friday, SafeSport, the independent organization charged with investigating the sexual abuse allegations, told Hadzic that he could not communicate with the six victims under any circumstances, nor could he remain in the same hotel or lodging as “female athletes or coaches of the United States”. delegation.” In addition, Hadzic must also have a chaperone.

Ironically, SafeSport’s temporary measures mirror the safety plan that USA Fencing has already had in place for nearly a year. Frustrated with SafeSport’s lack of action in the matter, the governing body took matters into their own hands and implemented boundaries around Hadzic during competitions.

“Today’s announcement by the Center reinforces existing measures already in place by USA Fencing to protect our athletes, coaches and staff at tournaments,” USFA officials told BuzzFeed News in a statement. communicated.

After a decision by an independent arbitrator, Hadzic was allowed to continue competing in protected events while SafeSport continues to investigate his case. The center said that while this continues, “the temporary measures are a tool used by the Center to protect sports participants while it conducts investigations to ensure they are thorough, professional and complete.”

At least six women have filed complaints of sexual misconduct, including rape, with the US Center for SafeSport. BuzzFeed News previously reported how, despite repeated female speaking outs, Hadzic was able to reach the highest levels of her sport. The case became another example of the organization’s struggles to protect athletes after it resumed investigations into abuse and misconduct by individual sports organizations in 2017 due to revelations of widespread failings within USA Gymnastics.

Lawyer Jack Wiener, who is representing three women in the case, called the latest development “outrageous”.

“Six women tell SafeSport he abused them,” he said. “Yet a year and a half later, this is the best SafeSport can muster? Like he goes freely to fencing clubs, frequented by teenage girls? And is allowed to represent the United States at the World Championships next week? What a dismal failure of SafeSport’s obligation to fulfill its mission.”

Hadzic’s investigation has dragged on for more than a year and the athlete was able to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Despite USA Fencing’s efforts last fall to ban Hadzic from competing, the elite 29-year-old from Montclair, New Jersey, has made Team USA as an individual and has competed in approximately 10 major international and national events since his controversial appearance at the Olympics, much to the frustration and dismay of fans. referees, coaches and other athletes. In multiple competitions, two sources within USA Fencing told BuzzFeed News that referees refused to oversee its events.

The case gained national attention last summer after female athletes began denouncing Hadzic’s ability to represent her country. It became a rallying cry for reform and caused unprecedented outcry and backlash at last year’s Games and again exposed the gaps between SafeSport and Olympic governing bodies.

USA Fencing last July admitted to BuzzFeed News that it had known for eight years that Hadzic had been suspended from his university after an investigation into a charge of sexually assaulting a fencing teammate. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the organization explained that it did not act at the time because its policies did not require it to do so.

In a statement to its athletes and members last May when Hadzic made the 2022 World Senior Team, USA Fencing expressed frustration with SafeSport’s handling of the matter.

“We were hoping for a quicker resolution to this investigation, which has now been going on for over a year. We share the frustration of fencers and fencing fans,” the governing body wrote. “Until the outcome of this investigation is resolved, USA Fencing is obligated to allow Hadzic to compete internationally.”

During the Olympics last summer, BuzzFeed News reported that Hadzic was allowed to travel to Tokyo as an alternate on the men’s epee team despite an ongoing investigation into serious allegations of sexual misconduct by the part of several women, including a teammate. Although SafeSport initially suspended him, a referee ruled in Hadzic’s favor and allowed him to take the coveted spot on the USA team. His presence caused an uproar in the fencing community and among his teammates, who unanimously signed a statement calling for his ban for their safety and well-being.

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