by Tom Morgan in Tokyo.
Teammates of a US Olympic fencer under investigation for sexual misconduct have been wearing pink face masks in apparent protest against him.
Alen Hadzic, 29, was temporarily suspended in June by governing bodies after three women made allegations about him dating back to 2013 and 2015, according to multiple reports in America.
However, Hadzic, who has vowed to clear his name, said he this week confronted two of the fellow fencers over the apparent act of solidarity with those making claims against him.
The accused athlete, who is a reserved to the men’s epee team, wore a black mask during introductions while his teammates wore the pink masks. “They never asked me for my side of the story,” Hadzic told American website USA Today. “They never asked for evidence or how I felt.”
According to the website, an “arbitrator” overturned the temporary suspension by the US Center for SafeSport last month, allowing Hadzic to join the team in Tokyo. Hadzic, who has repeatedly denied the allegations, was first named in a report on the website Buzzfeed, which revealed he had been forced to stay in a hotel in isolation away from the athletes village.
The fencers were preparing for their match against Japan when teammate Curtis McDowald handed out masks, a black one for Hadzic and pink masks for the three other fencers.
“I just remember thinking it would be kind of silly if I stood out there with a black mask and I asked them if they had an extra (pink) one, and they go, ‘Oh, no,’ ” Hadzic added.
His attorney, Michael Palma, has told the New York Times that his client had never committed any acts of sexual assault. USA Fencing has not responded to a request for comment about the pink masks.
US fencer and 2016 Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad tweeted: “Kudos to the team for taking a stand.”