Explainer: What is the ‘ROC,' and Why Are Russian Athletes Competing Under the Olympic Flag?


Viewers who are tuning into the Beijing Olympics in the coming weeks will likely notice a group of athletes who will be competing not under their own flag, but rather under the iconic five-ring Olympic banner, and there is a specific reason why.

Those athletes will be competing under the name of the “Russian Olympic Committee,” or ROC for short. Viewers of previous Olympics will recall that the designation was also used during the recent Tokyo Games, and the term “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” or OAR, was used in PyeongChang in 2018.

The Russian athletes will be competing under the altered moniker and flag because of a decision reached by international officials in 2017 that found the country had engaged in a state-sponsored doping program, providing athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.

Ultimately, dozens of athletes were barred from competition, numerous medals were stripped from athletes who had competed in previous events, and Russian political leaders were not allowed to attend previous editions of the Olympics.

Russian officials have long denied wrongdoing in connection with the case.

The 2022 Games in Beijing will mark the final time that the Russian athletes will have to compete under the “ROC” banner, according to officials.

Fans will likely notice the ROC designation during the Opening Ceremony on Friday, with Russian athletes marching into the arena to the Olympic anthem and flying the Olympic flag.

Any Russian athlete that wins a gold medal during the Olympics will have a similar experience, seeing the Olympic flag raised and hearing the Olympic anthem played during the medal ceremony.

During the PyeongChang Olympics, the OAR squad took home a pair of gold medals, with Alina Zagitova capturing the title in women’s figure skating and the men’s ice hockey team winning its tournament.

During that Olympics, two athletes failed doping tests and were later punished, including men’s curler Alexander Krushelnitskiy, who failed his test after winning a bronze medal in mixed doubles. He was suspended for four years, and he was stripped of his bronze medal after the failed test.

The ROC team will compete in uniforms that are based on Russia’s national colors, but will be adorned with the Olympic logo, rather than the Russian flag.

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