2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing
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What Country Is ROC in the Olympics? Athletes From Banned Country Compete

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Feb. 4 2022, Updated 12:49 p.m. ET

The Winter Olympic Games are in full swing, and sports fans are excited to see the international community gather together to compete. In the Olympic opening ceremonies, there were several countries that fans had questions about, most notably, the ROC. Here's what country the ROC is and why they had to adopt a new name to participate in the Olympics.

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Tennis player Maria Sharapova at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia.
Source: Getty Images

So, what country is the ROC?

For those who may not remember, at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russia was involved in a doping scandal that shook the international athletic community. The BBC explains that Russia was accused of covering up athletes abusing drugs, including while Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) declared that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) appeared to have altered athletes' test results.

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Beginning in 2015, Russian athletes who wish to compete in international sports must comply with the following rules: They are not allowed to compete under the Russian flag, call themselves Russia, or play the Russian national anthem. Initially, Russia was banned for four years but tried to appeal their ban in 2019. In 2020, the four-year ban was reduced to two, and it's currently in effect.

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According to The New York Times, the ban on Russia is "largely symbolic" because athletes from the country are still able to compete under these conditions. And some disagreed with the decision to cut the ban in half. Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said that the choice was a "weak, watered-down outcome" and "a catastrophic blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport, and the rule of law."

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After their appeal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) declared that Rusada failed to provide authentic drug testing results to WADA, which means that the country is still banned. The Independent reports that CAS decreed, "Russia will only be reinstated after the ban if it respects and observes the sanctions imposed, pays all related fines and contributions, and becomes compliant with the WADA code."

Any Russian athlete who proves to be clean will perform under the name ROC: Russian Olympic Committee. The naming decision was agreed upon by the International Olympic Committee and WADA.

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Currently, the ban lasts until December 16, 2022, so Russia cannot participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics. ROC is a slight name change from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the group was called "Olympic Athletes from Russia."

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What other penalties does Russia face for their doping scandal?

In addition to Russia being barred from direct representation at the Olympics, the country has also lost the right to bid for hosting rights for any sports event until December 2022. ESPN notes that any world championships designated for Russia to host have moved to a different location.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is committed to ensuring athletes are performing their best in the safest way possible. Understandably, the severity of Russia's actions is reflected in their ban, but hopefully, they will be able to re-establish themselves in the eyes of the global community and be able to compete once more.

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