By TALIA WIENER
Montclair High School graduate and U.S. Olympic men’s replacement fencer Alen Hadzic is opposing restrictions his attorneys say are arbitrary after being accused of sexual misconduct by three women, according to a Wednesday report by USA Today.
The USA Today report, citing a complaint filed with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and another by the New York Times Thursday provide details about the allegations that hadn’t previously been made public.
Montclair Local first reported Hadzic was suspended during an U.S. Center for SafeSport investigation into alleged misconduct in June; the suspension was later lifted, though an investigation into the allegations is ongoing. He’s previously declined comment to Montclair Local, but told USA Today the allegations were “untruths.”
The USA Today report cites the complaint saying the restrictions — characterized by USA Fencing as part of a “safety plan” — included Hadzic flying to Tokyo two days after his teammates and having him stay at a hotel while the team stays at the Olympic Village. An arbitration hearing is set for Thursday afternoon, one of Hadzic’s lawyers, Russell Prince, told Montclair Local. (UPDATE: USA Today later reported Hadzic lost his appeal of the restrictions at that hearing).
The report says that according to the complaint, the three women told investigators Hadzic committed sexual misconduct against them between 2013 and 2015. Hadzic confirmed to USA Today one of the allegations was made in 2013, when both he and the woman were attending Columbia University and competing as fencers there. The New York Times Thursday quoted another of Hadzic’s attorneys, Michael Palma, saying Hadzic was suspended from Columbia in 2013-14 for a Title IX investigation involving sexual consent. He said his client wasn’t allowed to call witnesses or provide character statements.
USA Today also quotes one of the three women saying Hadzic groped her. The Times reported that woman said Hadzic had grabbed her buttocks and pushed her against a dresser after she went to his apartment with a female friend she didn’t want to leave alone.
“I think of the possibility that this man accused of sexual assault by three women, credibly in the eyes of investigators, will stand atop the Olympic podium, wrapped in an American flag,” Wiener told the Times. “And I ask: How can this be happening in 2021?”
When the suspension against Hadzic was lifted, on June 30, a spokesman for SafeSport stressed to Montclair Local it wasn’t an indication of what conclusion the investigation might come to. SafeSport was founded in 2017 to investigate claims of sexual misconduct and other abuse.
The USA Today report cited documents quoting a judge saying the suspension was inappropriate because there hadn’t been any new allegation over the last two years, and the continuing probation supervision of USA Fencing and regulation of members by the U.S. Olympic teams would guarantee the safety and well-being of others. But the judge upheld a directive prohibiting Hadzic from contacting the three women and deferred a final ruling until a full hearing.
Palma told the Times USA Fencing had known about the allegations against his client for years, but hadn’t placed any restrictions on him until he made the Olympic team.
Hadzic qualified as the replacement athlete for the 2021 men’s epee Olympic team when he placed first in the men’s epee competition at the North American Cup in May. As a replacement athlete, Hadzic trains with the team and travels to the Olympics — but he would not compete unless a competing team member suffers an injury or is unable to compete for another reason.
Opening ceremonies for the Olympic games are Friday, and the men’s epee events begin July 25.