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Their country’s colors are on their uniforms. The colors are even on the flag they marched behind at the Opening Ceremony and will wave when they medal at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Heading into Sunday night, they had the most medals won so far at these Games.
But one nation’s athletes technically are not representing their country, just their country’s Olympic committee.
Russia is officially ROC. It’s name and flag are banned from the Olympics once again in the continuing fallout from the doping scandals which dominated the last decade of Russian sports.
The three-letter code ROC stands for Russian Olympic Committee, whose flag will be used — including a stylized Russian tricolor emblem — and the team is wearing national colors. Russia’s critics wanted stricter rules, including a vetting mechanism to bar athletes involved in doping cover-ups, before the Court of Arbitration for Sports watered down the sanctions package.
It’s the third and last Olympics under these restrictions for Russia, which fielded an ROC team at last year’s Tokyo Olympics and the “Olympic Athlete from Russia” team at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The 2018 sanctions were for doping and cover-ups when Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The current punishment is for a further cover-up, when the World Anti-Doping Agency found it had been handed manipulated doping data from the country’s national testing lab, which was under the control of Russian law enforcement. The restrictions on Russia expire in December 2022, well before the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. The Russian government denies there was any state involvement in doping.
The Russian team is expected to easily surpass its mark of 17 medals from the 2018 Olympics and could rival Norway and the United States at the top of the medals table.
Russia is the defending champion in two of high-profile events, men’s hockey and women’s figure skating, and the favorite to win both again.
Travis Pittman contributed to this report.
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