Russia- historically known for being among the world’s top sporting nations, has sent a contingent of 335 participants to the ongoing Tokyo Olympics. Participating with a pseudo name, Russia has been banned from using the country’s name compelling them to use the acronym ROC, meaning Russian Olympic Committee.
Why is there a ban on Russia?
In December 2019, a ban of four years was imposed on Russia by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). This bars Russia from competing in international events, including the Tokyo Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The ban was enacted after Russia was accused of a doping program.
From manipulating data to cheating, Russia has been time and again accused of running a sophisticated doping program, forcing international federations to stop its athletes from competing in major events.
Russian players to pay under the name ROC
In the Tokyo Olympics, Russian sportspersons are playing under the name of ROC, or the Russian Olympic Committee. Russian flag, national symbols and national anthem are all banned at the Olympics. Even the ROC’s full name cannot be spelt out during events and the gold medal winners will have music played by Russian composer Tchaikovsky, not the Russian national anthem.
However, the current contingent of players are using uniforms with Russian national colours blue, white and red.
Whistleblowers lift the lid off the doping scam
In 2014, 800m runner Yulia Stepanova and her husband Vitaly, a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, RUSADA, featured in a German documentary to reveal the ‘most sophisticated doping program’ in the history of sports.
Grigory Rodchenkov, a former head of the RUSADA came out in 2016 to disclose that Russia ran a carefully planned, state-sponsored doping scheme. Detailing the modus operandi, Rodchenkov said that the country’s anti-doping and members of intelligence services substituted urine samples of the athletes through a hidden hole in the wall at the agency’s lab during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. For additional security, the lab was guarded by members of Russia’s state security services.
In the latest, two swimmers from the Tokyo Olympics team have been suspended for cases dating back years and two rowers tested positive last month.
After several allegations were unearthed, the accreditation of Russia’s anti-doping lab was suspended in 2015. Subsequently, the International Olympics Committee debarred more than 100 sportspersons before imposing a complete ban.
A namesake ban?
As per reports, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) reduced the initial ban of four years to two in 2020. After the sanctioned term ends on December 16, 2022, Russia can once again participate if it respects and observes all imposed sanctions, pays its fines and contributions and starts adhering to WADA regulations.
However, the ban is not outright and participants who have been able to prove that they are not a part of the doping scam have been allowed to participate. As per the conditions laid out, they are allowed to compete as neutral participants, barred from using their country name, colours, flag and anthem.
WADA not happy with CAS
Commenting on the so-called ban, WADA President Witold Bańka said, “We at WADA remain disappointed that CAS has decreased the level of the sanctions from four years to two years and that CAS allows Russian athletes to compete with the colours of the flag in the uniforms.”
History of doping
Russia has been infamous for its doping scam since 2012 and the country continues to remain in news for the same to date.
As per a report from the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Olympic Committee said, “all Russian athletes … are considered to be affected by a system subverting and manipulating the anti-doping system.”