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On Friday, July 30, three members of the U.S. men's Olympic fencing team wore pink face masks while being introduced before the épée competition. They were reportedly protesting the presence of a team member who has been accused of sexual misconduct. Allegations of impropriety that occurred between 2013 and 2015 were brought forth against alternate Alen Hadzic by three female fencers, per the New York Times. Hadzic, who wore a black face mask, denies the allegations.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport initially suspended him on June 2, but his Olympic eligibility was ultimately restored following an appeal to an arbitrator. However, he was not permitted to stay in the Olympic Village. According to the New York Times, USA Fencing told the 29-year-old that his team “expressed concerns for their safety and well-being" due to his presence.
The USA Fencing team has yet to release a statement. On Saturday, Hadzic told USA TODAY Sports, "They never asked me for my side of the story...They never asked for evidence or how I felt." The Montclair, NJ native said that he wasn't aware of what was happening when fellow fencer Curtis McDowald distributed the pink masks before the match to everyone but Hadzic.
While U.S. fencing team member Jackie Dubrovich called the action "performative activism" that "does not address the issue at hand here...female athletes were not protected and our safety was deemed unimportant," Jack Wiener, a lawyer representing one of Hadzic's accusers, told the New York Times he was “pleased to see Team U.S.A. athletes speak out."
The U.S. team was ultimately defeated by Japan, finishing in ninth place. Hadzic did not compete.
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