If there was ever a time that I wish I didn’t have complimentary courtside seats to white male privilege, it was on Saturday when Buzzfeed introduced me to a guy named Alen Hadzic.
Hadzic, an Olympic fencer, should be living his best life after securing a spot as an alternate on the US Olympic team. But according to Buzzfeed News, well...
Six women fencers, including two Olympic athletes, wrote to the Olympic committee that Hadzic should not be allowed to represent the US because he was under investigation for at least three accusations of sexual misconduct reported to the US Center for SafeSport, the nonprofit agency responsible for protecting athletes from abuse. His presence at the Games, they said, was a “direct affront” to fellow athletes and put them at risk.
It gets worse from there.
As a result of his alleged behavior, in June, Hadzic was suspended from participating in international competition. He then successfully appealed his suspension through an arbitration process that clearly has glaring flaws, and is now somehow allowed to compete in Tokyo—much to his own teammates’ chagrin.
Acknowledging the severity of the allegations facing Hadzic, USA Fencing, the athletic federation in charge of selecting the country’s Olympic competitors, created a “safety plan” to keep him away from women and out of the Olympic Village: He flew in on a separate plane from his teammates, is staying at a hotel 30 minutes away from the other athletes, and won’t be allowed to practice alongside women teammates. After he appealed those conditions, the entire roster of Team USA fencers signed a letter demanding the restriction stay in place.
“We are pissed off that this is even a thing we had to deal with,” an Olympic fencer who filed a complaint against Hadzic alleging predatory behavior told BuzzFeed News from Tokyo. “He’s been protected again and again.”
Imagine spending years of your life preparing for the biggest stage of your career only to find out that there’s an alleged sexual predator in the midst.
“If this had been dealt with in the way that it should have been, he should have not even had the opportunity to try to make the Olympic team,” the fencer told BuzzFeed prior to leaving for Tokyo. “And now we have to deal with the consequences of having a predator on the team while simultaneously competing in the biggest event of our lives. I think that’s a very unfair position to put us in.”
It’s also difficult to accept that while USA Fencing has gone to great lengths to protect Hadzic and facilitate his participation in the Summer Olympics as an alternate, track and field’s next superstar, Sha’Carri Richardson, is stuck watching this bullshit unfold from home after a failed drug test spelled her doom.
As has been widely reported at this very site, Richardson tested positive for marijuana during the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. She was slapped with a 30-day suspension—retroactive to June 28—that killed her Olympic hopes but has always accepted responsibility for her actions and admitted that she turned to marijuana use to help cope with the loss of her mother and the unfathomable expectations to thrive in her sport.
“I want to take responsibility for my actions,” the 21-year said earlier this month on The Today Show. “I know what I did. I know what I’m supposed to do. I know what I’m allowed not to do. But I still made that decision. I’m not making an excuse.”
While Sha’Carri never made any excuses, it’s painfully clear that USA Fencing and SafeSport are by allowing Hadzic to still participate in Tokyo against even his own teammates’ wishes.
It also sends a very clear message to other Olympians that while COVID-19 presents an obvious threat to their safety, an alleged sexual predator in their immediate vicinity does not.
Hopefully, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s archaic rules related to marijuana use will be amended in the near future so that other transcendent talents aren’t sidelined for some bullshit, but in the interim, it’s painfully clear that those aren’t the only rules in dire need of an overhaul.