What is ROC? Why Russia is banned from the Olympics
If Grigory Rodchenkov decides to tune in to this summer’s Olympics, it will be from an undisclosed location in the United States. In his book, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory now describes himself as a whistleblower, one who “dwells in an ambiguous hell, where a perverse pride in unethical past achievements coexists with the desire to denounce the corrupt system that has successfully fed him for so long ”.
Between 2006 and 2015, Rodchenkov was the man in charge of eradicating doping in Russian athletics. To say he failed would be to put a generous shade on it. Instead, he supplied thousands of athletes with performance enhancing substances, before revealing it all.
In 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency found the state guilty of institutionalized doping and subsequent manipulation of laboratory data. The personal consequences for Rodchenkov have been severe enough, but the ramifications for Russian athletics will be on display to the viewer world at Tokyo 2020.
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The country is banned from attending the Games in an official capacity and will also be absent from the 2022 Paralympic Games and Winter Games in Beijing.
Their football team will also not be allowed to participate in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The ban, initially extended to four years, was shortened by two years following an appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Still, this position can cause a bit of confusion in Japan, where 335 athletes from the banned country have arrived to participate.
Why are there still Russian athletes at Tokyo 2020?
Russian athletes were still allowed to participate in the Games as long as they could prove they were clean. There is a catch: they will not officially represent their country and will be described as “neutral athletes”.
While they officially compete under the name “ROC” – or “Russian Olympic Committee” – this name will not be displayed on official sites, nor will the name “Russia”. Tokyo will follow a similar protocol at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where 168 Russian athletes competed.
So what is happening on the podium? If one of the athletes in question wins a medal, a flag bearing the Olympic rings and three flames will fly in place of the Russian Trikolor. There will be no national anthem – instead, they will receive medals to accents of Piano Concerto No.1 by Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
Some will be seen in a kit featuring the traditional colors of white, blue and red. However, the rules state that he must not carry the flag or any other alternative national symbol. It can include the word “Russia”, but only as long as the writing is smaller than the words “neutral athlete” – and although the name of the country can be written in any language, the words “neutral athlete” must be in English.