What country is ROC at the Olympics? What is the Russian Olympic Committee – why Russia is banned from Games

Russia can compete at the Olympics, but the team cannot use the Russian name, flag or anthem – why is that?

Those tuning in to the Olympics this year may have noticed something peculiar about the Russian athletes.

Instead of competing for Russia, they are actually competing for the “Russian Olympic Committee” (ROC).

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But what is the Russian Olympic Committee, and why are Russia’s athletes representing it?

Flag bearers Sofya Velikaya and Maxim Mikhaylov of Team ROC lead their team out during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Here is everything you need to know.

What is the Russian Olympic Committee?

The committee was founded in 1911 by representatives of Russian Sports Societies at a meeting in Saint Petersburg, though it wasn’t until 1992 that it was officially named the Russian Olympic Committee.

In 2017, the ROC was suspended by the IOC over its participation in a state-sponsored doping program, but following completion of doping test checks for Russian athletes who participated in the 2018 Winter Olympics, it was reinstated, despite two failed drug tests.

Why are Russians competing for the ROC?

Russian athletes are competing in Tokyo under the acronym ROC for the Russian Olympic Committee, due to Russia’s ongoing ban from international sports due to state-sponsored doping.

An independent inquiry led by Professor Richard McLaren in 2016 found that “state-sponsored” and “systematic” doping had occurred across multiple sports. At first the doping scandal centred around track and field, but widened out to include other sports as further investigations were conducted.

In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned Russia from all international sport for four years.

The reason for this was that WADA had found data and evidence provided by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency as part of the inquiry had been manipulated by Russian authorities with a goal of protecting athletes.

The sanctions included barring teams under a Russian flag from competing at the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2020 and 2022 and the football World Cup in 2022, among other global sporting events.

The country would also be blocked from hosting international sporting competitions. Individual athletes may be able to compete in events if they can prove they are not implicated or affected by the manipulated laboratory data which led to the sanctions being imposed.

The sanctions allowed exemptions for athletes if they could prove they were not implicated in the manipulated data, but they would not be able to compete under the Russian flag.

Why are Russian athletes allowed to compete?

Russia filed an appeal against the decision, and after a late 2020 review, the penalty against the country was reduced.

A new ruling allowed Russia to participate at the Olympics and other international events, but for a period of two years, the team cannot use the Russian name, flag or anthem and must present themselves as "Neutral Athlete" or "Neutral Team".

The ROC is allowed to display the word "Russia" on its team uniforms – provided that the term "Neutral Athletes" is also added and given equal predominance – and use the Russian flag colours within their designs.

Russia is being represented at the Tokyo games by the flag of the ROC, and a fragment of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 is being used as an alternative “national” anthem.

Russia is also barred from hosting or entering the bidding to host Olympic, Paralympic and world championship events covered under the sanctions during the two-year period, and where hosting rights have been awarded, they should be revoked.

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