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Why is Russia called ROC at the Olympics?

The country’s National Olympic Committee has been banned, which means you won’t hear the national anthem of the state at the 2020 Olympics.

Russian athletes official equipment for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games lay on a shelf during the opening of the Zasport equipment center for athletes and delegation members, in Moscow on July 1, 2021. Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

UPDATE, Wednesday, July 28: Russian athletes might not be able to compete under their national flag, but the ROC is having a solid run in the Tokyo Olympics through the first week. Through Wednesday morning ET, ROC ranks fourth in total medals with 20, behind the US, China, and Japan. ROC has claimed seven gold medals thus far, which is good for fourth as well. Their gold medals include sweeping men’s and women’s team gymnastics, two taekwondo wins, women’s sabre in fencing, women’s 10m air pistol, and the men’s 100m backstroke.

The years of government-endorsed doping by Russian athletes is why you won’t hear the Russian National Anthem or see a Russian flag at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The World Anti-Doping Agency charged Russia with systematic doping in December of 2019, banning all athletes from international competition in all sports for four years. This included everything from the FIFA World Cup to the world championships in weightlifting.

“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” WADA President Craig Reedie said afterwards. And it’s true: The breadth and depth of cheating going on in Russia was unlike anything seen since the East Germans and other nations behind the Iron Curtain in the 1970’s.

The Russian doping agency RUSADA was banned from testing athletes in 2015, conditionally reinstated in September 2018, but then banned once more at the end of 2019 for manipulating data again. This was the major charge that saw WADA come down harder than ever before against any nation.

The original ban came into effect in December of 2018, and was to last four years until December of 2022. However RUSADA appealed, and got significant sanctions repealed by doing so despite the protestations of doping experts around the world.

The original sentence was eventually halved by the Court for Arbitration of Sport near the end of 2020, which allows Russia to to participate in the Tokyo Games only because they were delayed a year thanks to COVID-19. The ruling by CAS was certainly controversial, because despite the clawbacks “WADA successfully proved its case and exposed the Russian authorities’ brazen attempts to manipulate data.”

So a settlement between the International Olympic Committee and the Russian Olympic Committee was reached. The biggest points are that the Russian team will be known simply as “ROC” during the Olympic Games in both Tokyo, as well as the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022. Also a special flag was created which will be used in place of the Russian flag.

And instead of hearing the Russian National Anthem when winning a gold medal, they’ll get Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. For classical music fans, it’s a known banger.

Before the ruling, Russians competed in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” And assuming no more violations, Russia with her flag and music will be allowed back fully in competition and able bid to host international sporting events again on December 16, 2022.