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Why is Russia called ROC at the Beijing Winter Olympics?

Russia’s National Olympic Committee has been banned, so you won’t hear the national anthem of the state at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

ROC short track speed skater Semyon Yelistratov trains at the Capital Indoor Stadium ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Beijing and Zhangjiakou from 4 to 20 February 2022. Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Thanks to years of government-endorsed doping by Russian athletes, you won’t hear the Russian National Anthem or see a Russian flag at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

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. And WADA includes all sports, from the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships to the European championships in judo. It’s an all-inclusive penalty for the entire nation.

“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport,” WADA President Craig Reedie said after the charges were read. And the amount of cheating happening in Russia was unlike anything seen since what was happening behind the Iron Curtain in the 1970’s.

There was even a “mouse hole” in the restroom of the anti-doping lab where athletes could switch their tainted urine for clean samples on the spot during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. It’s how Russia increased their performance from 15 medals to 33 during those games, and there was even a spreadsheet from a Russian doctor given to the New York Times outlining the entire program.

The Russian doping agency RUSADA was banned from testing athletes in 2015, conditionally reinstated in September 2018, and then banned once more at the end of 2019 for cheating yet again.

And because of the unprecedented flouting of the rules WADA come down harder than ever before against any nation, with a complete ban of all Russian athletes beginning in December of 2018 and lasting until December of 2022.

However RUSADA appealed, and got significant sanctions lifted 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 allowed Russia to participate in the Tokyo Summer Olympics only because they were delayed a year thanks to COVID-19.

The ruling by CAS was very controversial, and despite the clawbacks “WADA successfully proved its case and exposed the Russian authorities’ brazen attempts to manipulate data.” But the court decided to loosen the punishment anyway.

After that ruling, a settlement between the International Olympic Committee and the Russian Olympic Committee was reached. Part of that settlement was that Russian team is known simply as “ROC” during both the Summer Games in Tokyo and the Winter Games in Beijing. Plus a special flag was created to be used in place of the Russian flag.

Instead of playing the Russian National Anthem when winning a gold medal, ROC athletes hear Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. For classical music fans, it’s a known banger.

Before the settlement, 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 during international competitions yet again on December 16, 2022. The country will also be allowed to bid to host international sporting events again after that date.