There are 335 Russian athletes competing in the 2020 Games as “neutrals” under the moniker ROC, or Russian Olympic Committee, as part of an ongoing sanction imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Russia can not officially send any athlete to an international sports competition until December 2022. While WADA’s ban on the country was severe, the agency and International Olympic Committee have made special arrangements for athletes who have proven to be clean.
Why Russian athletes are competing under the ROC at Olympics Flag bearer Sofya Velikaya, of the Russian Olympic Committee, leads her contingent during the athletes’ parade at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, July 23, 2021.
“All public displays of the organization’s participant name should use the acronym ‘ROC,’ not the full name ‘Russian Olympic Committee,’” the IOC rules state. The Russian Olympic Committee and France flags are raised as the national anthem plays during the fencing women’s individual sabre medal ceremony, July 26, 2021.
In any event where a ROC athlete is awarded a medal, a Tchaikovsky song piece is played instead of the Russian national anthem, and the ROC flag, which features the Olympic rings and red, blue and white stripes, will be flown. Under the IOC’s rules, Russian athletes are prohibited in any form from showing any representation of the country, including its flag or national anthem.
As of Monday evening, the ROC team has won a dozen combined medals, including four gold, the fourth highest of all competing nations. None of those medals will be recorded in Olympic records as Russian wins. The punishments date back to 2015, after athletes came forward to WADA and provided evidence of a decade of state-sponsored doping. The Russian government has denied any involvement and has blamed several coaches.
However, in 2016, whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, provided evidence that he, other lab officials and Russia’s FSB security service worked to hide hundreds of positive doping tests. This is the second Olympics in a row where the country’s athletes couldn’t officially represent Russia.
The Russians were banned from competing in the 2018 winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, however, athletes that passed doping screenings were allowed to compete under the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) delegation. This is the second Olympics in a row where the country’s athletes couldn’t officially represent Russia.
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