After a year-long delay due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are finally here. And among the incredible feats of athletic prowess is an emerging story us Americans know all too well: a man accused of sexual assault multiple times, protected by the powerful, repping the red, white, and blue.
Alen Hadzic, a Team USA Olympic fencer, was under investigation for at least three sexual misconduct allegations, all reported to the US Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit supposedly tasked with protecting athletes from abuse. The 29-year-old was initially suspended from international play as a result, but was permitted to compete in the Olympic Games after Hadzic appealed the initial decision. Instead of banning him, USA Fencing created a so-called “safety plan” to make sure he was separated from women athletes: he flew on a separate plane than his team, he is staying in a hotel instead of in the Olympic Village, and he cannot practice alongside his female teammates.
Hadzic — who denies all allegations against him, and whose lawyer clarified to The New York Timesthat he has not been charged criminally or civilly with sexual impropriety — appealed the “safety plan”. That prompted the entire roster of Team USA fencing to sign a letter demanding that the plan stay in place, stating that he has been “protected again and again” and arguing that Hadzic “should not be allowed to represent the US because he was under investigation for multiple accusations of sexual assault,” according to reporting done by Buzzfeed. Hadzic lost his appeal and has been told that he cannot move into the Olympic Village.
That women athletes feel unsafe with Hadzic is valid and serious, and wanting him banned from the games or at least separated from them is easily understandable. But if he carried out the actions he is accused of, Hadzic is arguably the perfect representation of the United States — and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
We’re still, as a nation, recovering from a four-year-long presidency held by a man accused of sexual assault and harrassment by over 20 women (allegations which Donald Trump denies.) A depressing 74 million people voted for him — seeming to tell victims and survivors they are willing to pledge their allegiance to a cult of personality rather than commit to combating and one day ending sex-based crimes. Trump proudly mocked a survivor of sexual assault. He told reporters his accusers were too ugly to be raped or harassed. And still, people voted for him. Many would gladly vote for him again.
Two men accused of sexual assault and harassment are sitting on the United States Supreme Court, despite multiple allegations and compelling testimony from women who were forced into hiding due to an onslaught of death threats and online harassment. They sit on the highest bench in the land, poised to overturn Roe v Wade and further deny the autonomy of women and pregnant people — the epitome of patriarchy, misogyny, and privilege. The FBI did not investigate the claims levied against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and the man who degraded Anita Hill now sits behind the Resolute Desk. Both deny all allegations of wrongdoing.
Our justice system just released a man found initially guilty of three cases of felony indecent assault — and after 60 women accused him of sexual assault — because the criminal “justice” system appears to value the words of an alleged rapist over the experience of an alleged victim. Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, only 50 will lead to an arrest, 28 will lead to a conviction, and 25 will lead to time spent in jail.
Our elected officials allegedly share photos of naked women on the House floor, bragging about their sexual conquests as they vote against an anti-sex trafficking bill only to find themselves, years later, under federal investigation for sex trafficking (Matt Gaetz denies all allegations against him.) The Office of Compliance, created in the 90s to “advance workplace rights, safety, healthy, and accessibility in the Legislative Branch,” has paid victims of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination more than $17 million since its creation. Those tasked with proposing and passing the laws of the land spend their time creating games that assign “points” for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists, and married legislators.
In this country, we care more about a rapist’s college swimming stats and ability to eat red meat than we do the woman he victimized behind a dumpster. We care more about triple-twisting double backs and full-outs than we do protecting the nearly 500 children and young women Larry Nassar abused. We lament the social pressure to no longer enjoy the music, movies, or books created by rapists than we do the fact that they raped someone in the first place. We accuse those who come forward immediately of harboring nefarious motives, and condemn those who choose not to until years later of wanting attention.
The Olympics will ban a Black woman for smoking weed after her birth mother dies; ban Black women athletes for having naturally high testosterone levels; ban Black women for having an abortion and, as a result, missing a drug test; ban swimming caps large enough to cover dreads, braids, and afros, but go out of their way to create a plan that allows a man accused of multiple sexual assaults to compete.
Should Hadzic be at the Olympic Games? No. Is he the perfect representation of the country we live in and the people who run it? Probably.