Quick definition: ROC = Russian Olympic Committee
Let’s start off with some important background
Russia was handed a four-year ban from a wide range of international competitions including the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games after an investigation into a state-sponsored doping scheme. The four-year ban was handed down in 2019 by the World Anti-Doping Agency, however, Russia managed to appeal and bring down the ban length to two years. The investigation into the doping scheme revealed that Russia had used false evidence as well as deleted files linked to positive doping tests that could have identified athletes using prohibited drugs. Russia has strongly denied any involvement in a state-sponsored doping scheme.
The ban began in December 2020 after the appeals process, and will remain in place until December 2022. The duration of the ban also means that Russia won’t be able to compete as a nation in the 2022 Winter Olympics and the 2022 Football World Cup.
As a result of the investigation, 43 Olympic and numerous world championship medals were stripped from Russian athletes. Russia also lost the right to host, and even bid, for tournaments.
So, what exactly is the ROC?
It’s the way Russian athletes are allowed to compete as a result of the ban.
Rather than representing Russia and the Russian flag, ‘clean’ Russian athletes can represent ROC. Despite the ban that was mentioned above, Russian athletes are allowed to compete under a neutral flag, and ROC is considered neutral.
ROC has a separate flag and anthem that is played when an athlete wins a gold medal. The only time the word “Russian” is allowed to appear is if the phrase “neutral athlete” follows after. According to the International Olympic Committee, “all public displays of the organisation’s participant name should use the acronym ‘ROC’, not the full name “Russian Olympic Committee”.