US Olympic fencers wear pink masks in protest at teammate accused of sexual assault

Alen Hadzic made to fly to Tokyo apart from rest of team and stay at separate hotel

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Saturday 31 July 2021 02:20
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<p>Jacob Hoyle of Team United States, left, and Curtis McDowald of Team United States react to their loss to Team Japan in Men's Épée Team Table of 16 on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall on July 30, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.</p>

Jacob Hoyle of Team United States, left, and Curtis McDowald of Team United States react to their loss to Team Japan in Men's Épée Team Table of 16 on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall on July 30, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.

Three American fencers wore pink masks in their opening Tokyo 2020 match to protest the participation of a teammate accused of sexual assault in the Olympics.

The trio of Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald and Yeisser Ramirez wore the pink masks, while Alen Hadzic, the accused fencer, wore a black one, before their contest with Japan.

He is an alternate on the men’s épée team in Tokyo despite at least three complaints having been made by women against him.

Hadzic and his lawyer have strongly denied the allegations made against him.

“They’re untruths,” he told USA Today before the start of the Olympics.

Hadzic was initially suspended by the US Center for SafeSport, the watchdog that protects athletes from abuse, because of the investigation.

But he fought and successfully managed to get his ban lifted through arbitration.

USA Fencing made Hadzic travel to Tokyo apart from the rest of the team and he has to stay in a separate hotel.

Under the “safety plan” he is also banned from practising around female teammates.

“The disdain was clear,” one source told BuzzFeed News about the mask protest.

Another fencer, who is not at the games, told the news outlet, that “they decided to make a statement that they were not standing for him being there”.

“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.”

Hadzic’s inclusion in the team led six female fencers, including two of the Olympic team, to urge the International Olympic Committee to prevent his participation.

“We are gravely concerned about the impact Mr Hadzic’s potential presence will have on other Team USA athletes,” the women wrote back in May.

US fencer and 2016 Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad took to Twitter to praise the mask protest.

“Kudos to the team for taking a stand,” she tweeted.

Hadzic did not participate in the match, which Team USA lost to Japan, finishing in ninth place.

Japan ended up winning the gold medal over the team representing the ROC, with South Korea taking bronze.

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