What Is ROC at the Olympics? | ROC in Tokyo, Explained

Eagle-eyed fans of the Tokyo Olympics will have noticed that Russian athletes are competing under “ROC” rather than “Russia” during this Games. ROC stands for the Russian Olympic Committee, and hundreds of “ROC” athletes are competing under the Olympic rings flag instead of Russia’s—it’s a workaround measure so that they can compete despite an international doping scandal that rocked the sports world in 2019. The fact that the Russian athletes are there at all has been a source of controversy for the Games and other athletes. Not helping matters is that the ROC is currently ranked high on the country leaderboard at the Olympics, despite not being an actual country. So what do we know?

Why is Russia banned from the Olympics?

In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned Russia from all international sports competitions for four years after a doping scandal. WADA said there was conclusive proof that Russia had tampered with drug test data that showed state-sponsored doping for over 1,000 athletes spanning years. The time period spanned two Olympic Games—London and Sochi—and included a variety of unethical actions, like athletes systematically swapping out tainted urine samples, sometimes using “a hole in the wall … at the Sochi Olympics.”

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