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Los gimnastas del ROC celebran su medalla de oro. Getty Images
ROC gymnasts celebrate their gold medal. Photo: Getty Images

Why does Russia compete under the ROC flag?

Russian athletes had to demonstrate they never resorted to doping to participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

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As if an empty opening ceremony wasn't strange enough, there is another fact that makes this Olympics even more unique. Russia, one of the great Olympic powers, is not part of the competing countries.

Or at least not as a nation, with its flag and anthem, but under the figure of the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee), due to the sanction that the country received for the case known as “state doping” — an institutionalized system of doping and cheating, managed by the government itself, designed to evade doping controls in the various competitions where Russian athletes participated.

That is why on Monday, when David Belyavskiy, Nikita Nagorny and Artur Dalaloyan reached gold for Russia after 25 years in gymnastics, and shooter Vitalina Batsarashkina won her surprising gold medal in women's 10-meter shooting, they did not celebrate with the anthem of  their country, and the white, blue and red flag was not raised. Instead, the tunes of the Piano Concerto No. 1 of the composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky sounded.

The musical piece, by one of the most important Russian composers of the 19th century, will accompany the competitors under the neutral banner of ROC that were able to demonstrate they never resorted to doping and that were the only ones authorized by the International Olympic Committee to participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Doping as a state policy

Suspecting a huge doping system around the Russian team, Canadian expert Richard McLaren was appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate the matter. In 2016, McLaren presented a report that concluded that the state had created a doping system with the goal of leading the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics medals.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decided in December of last year to suspend Russia for two years from all international competitions, including the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the Beijing 2022 winter games.

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