One of the biggest headlines to come out of the 2022 Winter Olympics has involved a 15-year-old figure skater, who is competing for ROC, but many viewers were quick to question what exactly that stands for and why is it different?
The abbreviation isn't for a country, but is actually for a group of athletes competing not under their own flag, but rather under the iconic five-ring Olympic banner. And the latest controversy surrounding one of the athletes only highlights the reason why.
Russian athletes are competing under the name of the “Russian Olympic Committee,” or ROC for short. Viewers of previous Olympics will recall that the designation was also used during the recent Tokyo Games, and the term “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” or OAR, was used in PyeongChang in 2018.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
The altered moniker and flag were put in place because of a decision reached by international officials in 2017 that found the country had engaged in a state-sponsored doping program, providing athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.
Ultimately, dozens of athletes were barred from competition, numerous medals were stripped from athletes who had competed in previous events, and Russian political leaders were not allowed to attend previous editions of the Olympics.
Russian officials have long denied wrongdoing in connection with the case.
The 2022 Games in Beijing will mark the final time that the Russian athletes will have to compete under the “ROC” banner, according to officials.
Any Russian athlete who wins a gold medal during the Olympics will have a similar experience, seeing the Olympic flag raised and hearing the Olympic anthem played during the medal ceremony.
Though questions have been sparked as yet another athlete is at the center of a doping scandal.
Teen figure skating sensation Kamila Valieva tested positive for the heart drug trimetazidine on Dec. 25 at the Russian nationals. It wasn't until after Valieva's dominant performance in the team event that helped the Russian Olympic Committee win gold in Beijing, that the drug test results from a Swedish lab came to light.
That led to the postponment of the medal ceremony for the team event, in which the U.S. won silver and Japan took bronze.
The Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) immediately suspended her, then lifted the ban a day later. The IOC and others appealed, and an expedited hearing was held Sunday night.
Valieva's lawyer Denis Oswald said during the hearing that Valieva failed a doping test because of contamination from medication her grandfather was taking.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Monday after a hearing that Valieva did not need to be provisionally suspended ahead of a full investigation by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency that could take months to resolve. The court cited Valieva's status as a minor or "protected person" and the "serious issues of untimely notification" of her positive test as factors in the favorable ruling.
“The panel considered that preventing the athlete to compete at the Olympic Games would cause her irreparable harm in the circumstances,” CAS Director General Matthieu Reeb said.
As of Tuesday morning, ROC was in second place in the medal count for the 2022 Winter Games, with 20 medals in total, four of which are gold, including the one in question for the team figure skating event.
Still, Valieva and her teammates are trying to extend an era of Russian dominance in women's figure skating at the Olympics. All three ROC skaters finished in the top four, with reining world champion Anna Shcherbakova taking second with 80.60 and Aleksandra Trusova finishing fourth with 74.60. Japan's Kaori Sakamoto placed third with 79.89 points.
During the PyeongChang Olympics, the OAR squad took home a pair of gold medals, with Alina Zagitova capturing the title in women’s figure skating and the men’s ice hockey team winning its tournament.
During that Olympics, two athletes failed doping tests and were later punished, including men’s curler Alexander Krushelnitskiy, who failed his test after winning a bronze medal in mixed doubles. He was suspended for four years, and he was stripped of his bronze medal after the failed test.
Don’t miss the most exciting moments of the Winter Olympics in Beijing! Sign up for our Olympics newsletter.