TOKYO – A US Olympic fencer under investigation for allegations of sexual misconduct competes in the Tokyo Olympics but faces restrictions his lawyers believe are arbitrary and unnecessary, according to a complaint obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and USA Fencing say the restrictions are a matter of safety.
Alen Hadzic, the 29-year-old fencer, was temporarily suspended in June by the US Center for SafeSport after three women told investigators Hadzic committed sexual misconduct against them between 2013 and 2015, according to the complaint filed with of the USOPC.
A referee overturned the temporary suspension last month, allowing Hadzic to join the US Olympic fencing team. However, USA Fencing is restricting Hadzic’s travel to Tokyo, including forcing him to stay in a hotel while the team is in the Olympic Village, according to the complaint. Hadzic calls on the USOPC to immediately lift the measures with the Games opening ceremony scheduled for Friday.
An arbitration hearing is tentatively set for Thursday, said lawyer Michael Palma, who represents Hadzic.
Palma says USA Fencing has known about the allegations made by the three women “for years” and has never put any restrictions in place for Hadzic as he has competed all over the world with USA Fencing teams. The actions were characterized by USA Fencing as part of a “security plan,” according to the complaint.
USA Fencing and the USOPC declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Hadzic denied the allegations of sexual misconduct in a telephone interview with USA TODAY Sports.
“Frankly, these are untruths,” Hadzic said. “They just aren’t true.”
Hadzic presented his case after SafeSport was suspended to an arbitrator on June 28, addressing allegations of sexual misconduct between 2013 and 2015 and into 2019, according to the complaint. SafeSport which opened in March 2017 to investigate sexual abuse in Olympic sports
Judge Sherrie L. Krauser, who presided over the hearing, lifted the suspension and, according to the documents, said: “I find the ‘temporary suspension’ inappropriate to the allegations. Specifically, I find that the absence of any allegations of misconduct over the past two years, USA Fencing’s continued probation monitoring, and the strict regulation of members of the US Olympic team provide sufficient safeguards for the ” safety or welfare ”of others to lift the temporary suspension.
“Also, I don’t think it’s likely that (Mr. Hadzic’s) continued participation will be damaging to the reputation of the United States or his sport. For these reasons, I conclude that the temporary suspension is lifted as not justified by the facts and the circumstances of the allegations. ”
Krauser upheld a directive that bars Hadzic from contacting the three women and postponed a final decision until a full hearing can take place. A date for the full hearing was not indicated in the complaint.
After Krauser’s decision, USA Fencing issued Hadzic a “notice” outlining the restrictions that would be in place for him during the Olympics, according to the complaint. USA Fencing has stipulated that Hadzic will travel to Tokyo on July 18, two days after his teammates.
“Basically (USA Fencing) wants to hide Mr. Hadzic and prevent him from participating in the Olympic experience he rightly deserved,” his lawyers wrote in the complaint. “(USA Fencing) states that they are required to separate Mr. Hadzic from the Olympic experience in order” to increase the physical and emotional security of the parties throughout an investigation, to support a fair and neutral process and to ” help prevent retaliatory behavior on the part of everyone. parties.”
But the complaint notes that Hadzic is the only party in Tokyo involved in the investigation and argues that the restrictions “are simply intended to sanction Mr. Hadzic for being involved in an ongoing investigation by SafeSport.”
Hadzic said he was left alone during team meals, but the reception was warmer than expected.
“I didn’t know what the atmosphere would be like until I came here and then when I got to the training center all the coaches shook my hand and congratulated me for doing it. ‘team,’ Hadzic said. “All the shooters that I thought they would be afraid to talk to me about, all came up to me and said hello. Even the women.”
One of the women who reported Hadzic for sexual misconduct did so in 2013 when they both attended Columbia and competed for the school’s fencing team, Hadzic confirmed. He was suspended from school for a year following a Title IX investigation.
Another woman said she told a SafeSport investigator that Hadzic groped her in 2015. The woman told USA TODAY Sports that she and a fencing teammate in Columbia were walking home when Hadzic walked away. stopped in a car and asked them to come back to his home. She said she was aware of the previous allegation of sexual misconduct against Hadzic and that she agreed to go to his house only because her friend wanted to go and she did not want her friend to be alone .
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It is USA TODAY Sports’ policy not to identify individuals who allege sexual misconduct, even in cases where the allegations fall below the level of a felony.
“I think one case is enough for you not to be allowed to compete in the f —— Olympics,” the second woman told USA TODAY Sports. “It really makes you wonder how far someone has to go to not be able to compete. ”
Hadzic, who lives in New Jersey and since 2016 has represented the United States in several events, is the substitute athlete in the men’s épée. As a substitute, he will only compete if one of his teammates is unable to do so.
The men’s épée competition will start on Sunday.
Kris Ekeren, CEO of USA Fencing, said USA Fencing did not have the authority to take action after SafeSport launched its investigation into Hadzic, according to the complaint which included the content of an email Ekeren brought forward. sent to Hadzic on July 13. His email stated that SafeSport’s exclusive jurisdiction over the allegations prevents USA Fencing from conducting parallel disciplinary proceedings or imposing its own sanctions that would prevent Hadzic from participating in the Tokyo Games.
“Nonetheless, the athletes on the team have expressed concerns for their safety and well-being arising from your presence, which they believe is likely to negatively affect their mental and emotional abilities to prepare for and compete for the most. high standards required to be successful at the Olympics, “read Ekeren’s email to Hadzic. “Several have asked USA Fencing to put measures in place to ensure their safety and minimize distractions during training and competition. As a result, USA Fencing, in collaboration with the USOPC, will implement a security plan for the upcoming Olympic Games.
Hadzic said staying at a hotel a 25-minute drive from the Olympic Village undermined his experience and preparation.
“I don’t have the experience that I gained,” he said.