Answering some Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Alen Hadzic Case

Alen Hadzic. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Note: this post was written to to discuss the complex procedures that have gone into his case thus far and clear up some of the misinformation snowballing on social media.

What is Mr. Hadzic being accused of? Those allegations are outlined in the BuzzFeed and Insider articles pretty clearly. Mr. Hadzic has denied these allegations. This blog will not speculate on the validity of the accusations and encourages the reader to come to his/her own conclusion.

Walk us through what happened, procedurally, leading up to the Tokyo Olympics. On Wednesday, June 2, 2021, the U.S. Center for SafeSport (USCSS) issued a temporary suspension of Alen Hadzic that temporarily prohibited him from participating in Fencing. Per the disciplinary notice, the suspension was put in place “pending investigation and resolution of allegations by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.” The ban would have prohibited Mr. Hadzic from fencing in the Tokyo Olympics.

In response to his temporary suspension, Mr. Hadzic appealed the USCSS decision, requesting to have his ban lifted. On June 28, 2021, an independent arbitrator by the name of Judge Sherrie L. Krauser lifted Mr. Hadzic’s suspension. In Krauser’s ruling, she stated:

“I find that the ‘temporary suspension’ is inappropriate to the allegations. Specifically, I find that the lack of any allegation of misconduct in the past two years, the continuing probation supervision of USA Fencing and the strict regulation of members of the U.S. Olympic team provide sufficient guarantees to the ‘safety or well-being’ of others to lift the temporary suspension…Further, I do not find it likely that (Mr. Hadzic)’s continued participation would be detrimental to the reputation of the United States or his sport.  For these reasons, I find that the temporary suspension is lifted as not warranted by the facts and circumstances of the allegations.[1]

None of Hadzic’s alleged accusers were allowed to present their case in the appeal hearing.

Wait, what is the US Center for SafeSport? In 2017, the United States Center for SafeSport (USCSS) was founded by an act of Congress, giving them exclusive jurisdiction (bolded for emphasis) over all the National Governing Bodies (NGB’s) as the “official safe sport organization for all Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and Para Pan American sports in the United States.” The Center was established after the USA Gymnastics/Larry Nassar scandal, with the thought that NGB’s couldn’t sufficiently police themselves without the pervasion of politics and power, thus the establishment of an independent body to evaluate sexual abuse claims.

Why did we bold “exclusive jurisdiction?” Because it’s important to note that the USCSS has authority over all NGB’s. Any decision made by USCSS cannot be overturned by an NGB such as USA Fencing. We’ll get to that.

So did Krauser end Hadzic’s SafeSport investigation? No, she did not. This is a common misconception in the Fencing community. The investigation is still ongoing. All Judge Krauser did was lift the temporary suspension imposed by the USCSS, allowing Mr. Hadzic to compete in Tokyo.

So why did USA Fencing let Hadzic travel to Tokyo? The short answer is, they had no choice. Refer to Section V, Article D of the USA SafeSport Code, and it states: “When the Center expressly exercises jurisdiction over particular allegations regarding a particular Participant, the relevant organization(s) cannot issue—in response to those allegations—a suspension or other restriction that may deny or threaten to deny a Respondent’s opportunity to participate in sport. The relevant organization may implement any necessary safety plan(s) or temporary measure(s).

In other words, USA Fencing had no control over Mr. Hadzic’s ability to travel to Tokyo. The USCSS had established jurisdiction over this case, and therefore USA Fencing had no authority here but to implement a safety plan.

Did USA Fencing create a safety plan in response? Yes. 23/24 members of the USA Olympic Fencing Team signed a letter expressing their concerns over Hadzic’s presence in Tokyo (only Hadzic did not sign). The letter read: “We, the athletes, will feel extremely unsafe and uncomfortable should Alen be transferred to live in the Olympic village…Hundreds of other US athletes, coaches and staff, not to mention the thousands of international Olympic stakeholders staying in the village will be unknowingly also put at risk due to Alen’s presence.” [2]

In an email dated July 13, 2021, USA Fencing CEO Kris Ekeren wrote to Hadzic informing him of a safety plan that placed Mr. Hadzic on a separate plane to Tokyo from his teammates, required him to stay in a hotel outside of the village, and prevented him from practicing with female teammates.  Mr. Hadzic sued USA Fencing, the USOPC, and some of his fellow athletes with a USOPC Section IX Complaint, which allows athletes to file grievances regarding opportunities to participate.

On July 22, 2021, Matthew J. Mitten, an independent arbitrator ruled against Mr. Hadzic’s Section IX complaint, stating Hadzic “did not prove by a preponderance of evidence that the conditions or requirements of USFA’s July 13, 2021 “Safety Plan” to protect the safety and well-being of Team USA fencing team members, particularly its female athletes, denies him an opportunity to compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games as an alternate member of the men’s fencing epee team.” Mr. Hadzic’s attempt to recoup attorney’s fees was also denied.[3]

The safety plan has been widely criticized by pundits across the media, but it was the only avenue USA Fencing had, per the USA SafeSport code.

Okay this is a lot of procedural gobblygook so far, can I get a quick recap?

  1. Hadzic temporarily suspended by USCSS who has jurisdiction over USA Fencing
  2. Hadzic appeals the USCSS ban and requests his ban get overturned and wins. The investigation continues
  3. USA Fencing has no choice but to send him to Tokyo due to USCSS’s exclusive jurisdiction
  4. USA Fencing creates a safety plan to prevent Hadzic from staying in the village/being around female athletes
  5. Hadzic sues to have safety plan rescinded. Hadzic loses, and the safety plan is upheld

Okay, so he was allowed to compete? Yes. But, there’s one more important thing to note: as the alternate to the team, Mr. Hadzic would have had to be subbed in to fence in order to be credentialed as an Olympian, according to this article[4].

Did he get subbed in? No. In the round of 16, USA Men’s Epee lost a narrow, devastating bout to Japan (the eventual Olympic champions) by a score of 45-39. Mr. Hadzic was not subbed in.

So what happens now? The SafeSport investigation is still ongoing. According to Jack Wiener, an attorney who represents some of the alleged victims pro bono, additional accusers have filed against Mr. Hadzic, claiming alleged sexual misconduct[5].

What did USA Fencing know, and when did they know it? Mr. Hadzic’s attorney, Michael Palma claims that USA Fencing knew about the allegations against Mr. Hadzic “for years.” This claim has now been backed by an article by Bradford William Davis of Insider. In a letter to Ms. Ekeren penned by an attorney of one of Mr. Hadzic’s accusers, the attorney stated that Mr. Hadzic’s actions had violated USA Fencing’s policies. Ekeren responded that: “Mr. Hadžić was not vested by [USA Fencing] with any badge of influence with regard to your client, and his alleged conduct was not related to his role at any USFA event…Although USFA sympathizes with your client over the incident you report, I have concluded that the incident would not fall within the proscriptions of USFA’s SafeSport policy.”

Did they fall under the “proscriptions” of the SafeSport policy? Not in 2013, where the policy applied to volunteers, referees, coaches, with athletes never explicitly called out in the SafeSport policy at the time. While the 2013 SafeSport policy did not apply to athletes, USA Fencing’s Athlete Code of Conduct (which all athletes were required to sign) did. That policy includes a provision that reads: “I understand that it is a USFA rule that any sexual conduct or advance or any other inappropriate sexually-oriented behavior directed toward an athlete by another athlete … is prohibited.”

Nevertheless, having this information on hand, one wonders why Ms. Ekeren did not report it to the USCSS in 2017 following the establishment of the Center when the policy clearly applied to athletes.



[3] USOPC Case Number: 01-21-0004-8169




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