Here's Why There's a Team Called 'ROC' at the 2022 Olympics

Russia was OAR. Now it's ROC, because it can't be listed as Russia right now.

Russia's Olympic Team 'ROC' Olympics
Photo by Anton Novoderezhkin\TASS via Getty Images
Photo by Anton Novoderezhkin\TASS via Getty Images

Kamila Valieva has already made history at the 2022 Winter Olympics, landing the first and second-ever quad in women's figure skating at the Olympics. The 15-year-old Russian made history, but viewers may have noticed that her team was not listed as Russia but ROC.

It's not a new team. It's really Russia. But we're all supposed to pretend like it's not. At the 2018 Winter Olympics, you may recall seeing a team named OAR—Olympics Athlete(s) from Russia. At the Tokyo Olympics last year, OAR changed to ROC. That's the case again in Beijing because Russia isn't allowed to compete in the Olympics, except they are. It's kind of confusing.

ROC stands for Russian Olympic Committee

Athletes who might otherwise compete under the Team Russia banner are competing as ROC. That is due to the repercussions of the Russian doping scandal at the Sochi Olympics. The end result is that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) isn't allowing Russia to compete in the Games, but Russian athletes are able to compete still on a team of Russian athletes.

The IOC imposed sanctions on the Russian Olympic Committee after the scandal. The name "Russia" can only appear on uniforms, equipment, or "other personal items or in a publicly visible manner" if it is prominently joined by the words "neutral athlete," per a ruling. Instead of stacking a giant pile of words with Russia, uniforms for Russian athletes say ROC.

The scandal first emerged in the McLaren Report, which alleged that more than 1,000 Russian athletes took part in or benefitted from a state-sponsored cover-up for athletes using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Those drugs are banned for athletes participating in the Olympics.

The second part of the report was published after the Rio Games in 2016. The resulting IOC investigation and The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanction declared that the Russian Olympic Committee was barred from international competitions through 2022.

If they're banned, why are Russians competing?

The ban took effect in December 2017. Yet, the IOC decided to allow Russian athletes with no history of using PEDs to compete. Since they hadn't violated any rules, elite athletes from Russia were allowed to continue competing. They just can't do it under the Russian flag.

It has been a controversial situation at times. Some athletes at the 2018 Games said that the IOC failed many athletes who didn't cheat in the process while simultaneously not being harsh enough on those who did use PEDs. 

What happens if a Russian athlete wins a medal?

Russian athletes can and will win medals. The sanction, however, does make it a different situation than it would have been otherwise. ROC athletes will not face a Russian flag or hear the Russian anthem when they win gold.

Instead of the Russian national anthem, gold medal-winning athletes on the ROC team will hear Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, per the ruling. Instead of the Russian flag, athletes will face the emblem of the ROC, which is a white, blue, and red flame over the Olympic rings on a white background. You'll likely see it at some point if you haven't already. As of February 7, ROC has the more Olympic medals than any other country. 

Check back during the Games for all of Thrillist's continuing Olympics coverage. Think of us like an all-knowing friend watching along with you to answer all the most important questions, like how heavy Olympic medals are, or how you can tell the difference between luge, skeleton, and bobsled. We'll explain everything from why the triple axel is such a big deal, to how the Russian team found a sneaky way to wear its flag despite a ban, and much, much more.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.