Russian Doping At The Tokyo Olympics Remains A Question : Live Updates: The Tokyo Olympics

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NPR 04 August, 2021 - 09:22am 32 views

What does ROC mean in the Olympics?

The “ROC,” or “Russian Olympic Committee,” is a group of athletes from Russia who are allowed to compete under this special designation because their country is banned due to a “state-sponsored doping program.” nj.comTokyo Olympics: Why is Russia called ‘ROC’?

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Once Again, Banned Russians Raise Questions About Doping At The Olympics

The Wall Street Journal 04 August, 2021 - 04:23am

TOKYO — Traditionally, doping at the Olympics has been an uncomfortable companion to the Games' soaring athletic achievements.

In Tokyo, it hasn't been the issue it often is because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

But it's still there, along with a Russian team that has come to embody doping controversy.

There's a joke that's been going around at these Olympics: When has there ever been so much talk about positive tests, and not have it be about performance-enhancing drugs?

Yes, the coronavirus shoved doping to the side.

Or at least it did until U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy finished second to Russian Evgeny Rylov in the men's 200-meter backstroke.

"I don't know if [the race] was 100 percent clean," Murphy said at a press conference afterwards, "and that's because of things that happened over the past."

His doping suspicion could have been based on a number of things over the past.

In 2016, there was the revelation that Russia had been running a state-sponsored doping system, which Russia has always denied.

Also in 2016, there was a widespread drug testing failure, not just in Russia, before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, says the failure happened in 10 sports considered high risk for doping, including swimming and track and field.

"In those high-risk sports alone," Tygart said, "there were 1,913 athletes who had no tests in the months leading into the Rio Olympic Games."

That's significant, he says, because most doping happens before a big event, like the Olympics.

"At least six months before a major competition," Tygart said, "you have to have robust out-of-competition testing because that's the time period when athletes will use human growth hormone or EPO or other steroids."

Those drugs will the be out of their system by the time the Games take place, he says. "But you'll still have the benefit of those drugs that you used prior to the Games. So it's absolutely essential."

Pre-Tokyo, there was another failure because of the pandemic.

In 2020, he said, "you had about a 45% reduction in [global] testing, according to WADA statistics."

"In the first quarter of 2021, this year, you had a reduction of roughly 20%, according to WADA statistics."

In other words, there are plenty of reasons for athletes, like Ryan Murphy, to be suspicious.

In that post-race press conference, Murphy said he was expressing general concerns about doping and wasn't directly accusing Rylov, who was sitting right next to him. Rylov was asked whether he felt like he was being accused of anything and whether he used banned drugs.

"I have always been for clean competition," Rylov said through an interpreter, "I am always tested. So from [the] bottom of my heart, I am for clean sports."

But the fact is, his country is being punished for a third straight Olympics for being not clean.

And punished, critics say, is a relative term.

Russia technically is banned from the Tokyo Games for its years of breaking anti-doping rules — from the state-sponsored system to allegations the country more recently manipulated drug test results. As a result of the ban, Russian athletes, again, are supposed to compete as neutrals. At the 2018 Winter Games, they were Olympic Athletes from Russia. In Tokyo, they are competing for the Russian Olympic Committee, or ROC.

They can't fly the Russian flag or hear their anthem when they win gold.

But they found a stirring alternative.

The International Olympic Committee approved the use of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, and it's getting some play.

As of Wednesday in Tokyo, the ROC had won 14 gold medals and was third in the overall medal standings. ROC winners are getting congratulatory tweets from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And in response to Ryan Murphy and others renewing suspicions about Russia, the official ROC Twitter account posted an uncompromising response.

"How unnerving our victories of individual colleagues in the shop are," the tweet said, in part, according to a translation provided by Twitter. "Yes we are here at the Olympics. Absolutely right. Whether someone likes it or not. The old barrel organ started the song about Russian doping again. Someone is twisting the handle diligently. English-language propaganda, oozing verbal sweat in the Tokyo heat. Through the mouths of athletes offended by defeats."

USADA's Tygart says the bravado isn't surprising.

"Look, it obviously shows what a joke the quote, unquote ban really has been," Tygart said. "Everyone knows [the ROC] is the Russian athletes and no change has been evidenced whatsoever coming out of Russia. And it only emboldens them to continue to deny and attack those who would want the rules to be enforced."

Tygart and other critics say much of the fault lies with the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency.

"It's simply not fair to clean athletes who are being held to the highest standards that the IOC and WADA continue to turn a blind eye," Tygart said.

Asked this week about Tygart's criticism, specifically that IOC and WADA leaders are attempting to "pull the wool over the world's eyes" by claiming Russia is banned, IOC spokesman Mark Adams didn't answer directly.

Tygart says Russia, with its power and money, is too big for the IOC to enforce meaningful punishment.

"Let's not forget," he said, "Russia put 50 plus billion dollars into the Sochi Olympic Games, and they continue to put money into hosting international events across the board. And they have significant political leverage within the IOC in the International Federations movement. And [the IOC] doesn't want to take a hard stand because they're fearful of the backlash [from] the Russians. At the end of the day, in the eyes of the IOC and its limp leadership, [Russia] is simply too big to fail."

If real punishment were possible, Tygart believes it should be against not individual Russian athletes, but instead Russian leadership. He says Russia should be transparent and publish drug test results as a way to start regaining the world's trust.

Short of that, he believes Russian and Olympic leaders are ready to ride out the Russian ban, which was reduced from four to two years.

It's scheduled to end in late 2022, meaning next February's Winter Games will be yet another Olympics of neutrality and, most likely, suspicion.

Once Again, Banned Russians Raise Questions About Doping At The Olympics

Volleyball Magazine 04 August, 2021 - 04:23am

TOKYO — Traditionally, doping at the Olympics has been an uncomfortable companion to the Games' soaring athletic achievements.

In Tokyo, it hasn't been the issue it often is because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

But it's still there, along with a Russian team that has come to embody doping controversy.

There's a joke that's been going around at these Olympics: When has there ever been so much talk about positive tests, and not have it be about performance-enhancing drugs?

Yes, the coronavirus shoved doping to the side.

Or at least it did until U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy finished second to Russian Evgeny Rylov in the men's 200-meter backstroke.

"I don't know if [the race] was 100 percent clean," Murphy said at a press conference afterwards, "and that's because of things that happened over the past."

His doping suspicion could have been based on a number of things over the past.

In 2016, there was the revelation that Russia had been running a state-sponsored doping system, which Russia has always denied.

Also in 2016, there was a widespread drug testing failure, not just in Russia, before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, says the failure happened in 10 sports considered high risk for doping, including swimming and track and field.

"In those high-risk sports alone," Tygart said, "there were 1,913 athletes who had no tests in the months leading into the Rio Olympic Games."

That's significant, he says, because most doping happens before a big event, like the Olympics.

"At least six months before a major competition," Tygart said, "you have to have robust out-of-competition testing because that's the time period when athletes will use human growth hormone or EPO or other steroids."

Those drugs will the be out of their system by the time the Games take place, he says. "But you'll still have the benefit of those drugs that you used prior to the Games. So it's absolutely essential."

Pre-Tokyo, there was another failure because of the pandemic.

In 2020, he said, "you had about a 45% reduction in [global] testing, according to WADA statistics."

"In the first quarter of 2021, this year, you had a reduction of roughly 20%, according to WADA statistics."

In other words, there are plenty of reasons for athletes, like Ryan Murphy, to be suspicious.

In that post-race press conference, Murphy said he was expressing general concerns about doping and wasn't directly accusing Rylov, who was sitting right next to him. Rylov was asked whether he felt like he was being accused of anything and whether he used banned drugs.

"I have always been for clean competition," Rylov said through an interpreter, "I am always tested. So from [the] bottom of my heart, I am for clean sports."

But the fact is, his country is being punished for a third straight Olympics for being not clean.

And punished, critics say, is a relative term.

Russia technically is banned from the Tokyo Games for its years of breaking anti-doping rules — from the state-sponsored system to allegations the country more recently manipulated drug test results. As a result of the ban, Russian athletes, again, are supposed to compete as neutrals. At the 2018 Winter Games, they were Olympic Athletes from Russia. In Tokyo, they are competing for the Russian Olympic Committee, or ROC.

They can't fly the Russian flag or hear their anthem when they win gold.

But they found a stirring alternative.

The International Olympic Committee approved the use of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, and it's getting some play.

As of Wednesday in Tokyo, the ROC had won 14 gold medals and was third in the overall medal standings. ROC winners are getting congratulatory tweets from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And in response to Ryan Murphy and others renewing suspicions about Russia, the official ROC Twitter account posted an uncompromising response.

"How unnerving our victories of individual colleagues in the shop are," the tweet said, in part, according to a translation provided by Twitter. "Yes we are here at the Olympics. Absolutely right. Whether someone likes it or not. The old barrel organ started the song about Russian doping again. Someone is twisting the handle diligently. English-language propaganda, oozing verbal sweat in the Tokyo heat. Through the mouths of athletes offended by defeats."

USADA's Tygart says the bravado isn't surprising.

"Look, it obviously shows what a joke the quote, unquote ban really has been," Tygart said. "Everyone knows [the ROC] is the Russian athletes and no change has been evidenced whatsoever coming out of Russia. And it only emboldens them to continue to deny and attack those who would want the rules to be enforced."

Tygart and other critics say much of the fault lies with the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency.

"It's simply not fair to clean athletes who are being held to the highest standards that the IOC and WADA continue to turn a blind eye," Tygart said.

Asked this week about Tygart's criticism, specifically that IOC and WADA leaders are attempting to "pull the wool over the world's eyes" by claiming Russia is banned, IOC spokesman Mark Adams didn't answer directly.

Tygart says Russia, with its power and money, is too big for the IOC to enforce meaningful punishment.

"Let's not forget," he said, "Russia put 50 plus billion dollars into the Sochi Olympic Games, and they continue to put money into hosting international events across the board. And they have significant political leverage within the IOC in the International Federations movement. And [the IOC] doesn't want to take a hard stand because they're fearful of the backlash [from] the Russians. At the end of the day, in the eyes of the IOC and its limp leadership, [Russia] is simply too big to fail."

If real punishment were possible, Tygart believes it should be against not individual Russian athletes, but instead Russian leadership. He says Russia should be transparent and publish drug test results as a way to start regaining the world's trust.

Short of that, he believes Russian and Olympic leaders are ready to ride out the Russian ban, which was reduced from four to two years.

It's scheduled to end in late 2022, meaning next February's Winter Games will be yet another Olympics of neutrality and, most likely, suspicion.

We Will ROC You: How Russia Benefited From Olympic “Ban”

Slate 03 August, 2021 - 04:45am

Russian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics are like high school kids who roll their eyes behind the principal’s back during detention—except in their case, they are serving what increasingly looks like a farcical sentence for their nation’s seemingly endless doping scandals.

Casual viewers of the Games might be forgiven for missing the fact that Russia is supposedly still on an Olympic timeout. Unlike at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics—at which Russian athletes had to wear gray uniforms with no markings, parade under the generic Olympic flag, and have their winnings celebrated by the Olympic anthem—at Tokyo their uniforms have thick stripes of white, blue, and red in the same order they appear on the Russian flag; they fly the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee with white, blue, and red flames above the Olympic rings; and they get to hear Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 when they win gold.

So, Russian athletes have gone from being neutral athletes from a country that cannot be mentioned to athletes representing the Olympic committee of that very nation. NBC, interestingly, has pretty much dispensed with the charade in its TV coverage, referring to Russian athletes throughout as representing, well, Russia. And these “Russian Olympic Committee” athletes are doing pretty well, currently in third in the total medal count, behind the far larger delegations from China and the United States.

Among many of their competitors, there is a sense of unease surrounding Russia’s participation. After losing the gold to Evgeny Rylov in the 200-meter backstroke, American swimmer Ryan Murphy said at a press conference:

“It is a huge mental drain on me … that I’m swimming in a race that’s probably not clean,” Murphy said. “It frustrates me, but I have to swim the field that’s next to me. I don’t have the bandwidth to train for the Olympics at a very high level and try to lobby the people who are making the decisions that they’re making the wrong decisions.”

Elsewhere at the Games, American rower Megan Kalmoe said that “seeing a crew who shouldn’t even be here walk away with a silver is a nasty feeling,” referring to Vasilisa Stepanova and Elena Oriabinskaia’s medal in the pairs, and Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev lost his cool when a reporter asked him if he felt he and all Russian competitors carried around a “stigma of cheaters.”

Firing back at Ryan Murphy’s comments after Rylov’s win, the Russian Olympic Committee posted on Twitter (alongside Murphy’s photo):

You have to know how to lose. But not everyone can. And here we go again—the same old song about Russian doping is played by the old music box. Someone is diligently turning the handle. English propaganda is oozing verbal sweat onto the Tokyo Games. Through the mouths of athletes offended by defeats. We will not console you. We’ll forgive those who are weaker. God is their judge. He’s our helper.

The Twitter feed of the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom had a more measured reaction: “Athletes’ emotions are understandable. Media cynically stoking them is pathetic.”

This is already the third Olympics Russia has participated in since the World Anti-Doping Agency reported in 2016 that Russian authorities operated an elaborate doping program from 2011 to 2015. (The period included the London 2012 Summer Olympics and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.) The investigation revealed that officials systematically swapped tainted urine samples from Russian athletes for clean ones. As a result, more than 100 Russian athletes were banned from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and the strictures separating individual athletes’ participation from Russian participation went into effect and carried on through Pyeongchang. To avoid the extension of these bans, the Kremlin acknowledged doping manipulations (though it never agreed that the state ran the doping scheme) and allowed WADA to access testing data from the Moscow laboratory. Still, some of the information appeared to have been tampered with. So, in 2019, Russia was banned from the Olympics for four more years.

But then, crucially, last year the Court of Arbitration for Sport sided with a Russian appeal on many grounds, reduced the ban to two years, and eased many of the restrictions on Russian athletes.

At the Rio Games, only 271 Russian athletes (70 percent of the original team) were allowed to come, but the Russian delegation at the Tokyo Olympics is more extensive—335 members. The number of affected athletes varies depending on the sport and its governing federation, and this week as track and field takes center stage at the Games, Russia’s punishment will become more tangible, as World Athletics has capped the number of Russian athletes at 10.

The biggest favor that the Court of Arbitration for Sport did for Russia when tweaking the sanctions it must observe was in providing it with the “ROC” designation, which stands for the Russian Olympic Committee. It might not be that obvious, but it gave a lot of room for Russian propaganda creativity.

Russian officials quickly transformed “ROC” into “ROCK.” The general producer of a state-run sports channel, Match TV, Tina Kandelaki, started a social media campaign under the #WeWillROCYou hashtag, referencing the Queen song. “Olympics is the place where we will show and prove that we are Russians. All these insults and bans of WADA only fuel us,” wrote Kandelaki on her Instagram.

Indeed, back in Russia, the official line is that all these Olympic sanctions are politically motivated, and part and parcel of a larger geo-strategic move on the part of the West to deny Russia its rightful status in the world. In 2019, then–Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called the new Olympic ban “chronic anti-Russian hysteria.” This is also the message Russians receive from the state-owned media (which dominates Russian TV). The WeWillROCYou hashtag has become more popular after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov promoted it in a speech. He called “We Will Rock You” an American song (though it is actually British) and said that the current title of the Russian team additionally motivates athletes to win. Lavrov’s subordinate, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, even created a controversial (to say the least) video. In the beginning, she is punching a mannequin with the label “Press” before going to a press conference. Then one of the journalists asks Zakharova what she thinks about the concerns of Americans that Russia would hack the Olympics (the U.S. actually didn’t express such concerns). She answers, “It is an excellent excuse for American failures. However, they should not forget to link their wins to Russian hackers as well.”

So far, there are about 16,000 posts on Instagram tagged #WeWillROCYou. On TikTok, the hashtag has almost 100 million views. Users post videos of Russians getting gold medals in Tokyo with the caption “We can win medals without a flag and an anthem.” Famous Russian DJ Smash mixed “We Will Rock You” and Piano Concerto No. 1. Many Russians on TikTok used DJ Smash’s piece as a background for their videos.

Russians even managed to use the hashtag offline: It appeared in the form of graffiti on buildings in major Russian cities. One image, captured in Moscow, depicts a Russian athlete flooring a competitor with “WADA” on their uniform. Authorities are likely behind the graffiti, because all images that are not approved by the state (like the portrait of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny) get removed quickly. Moreover, as Sports.ru found out, most of the posts on social media under #WeWillROCYou are made by accounts linked to the government.

Regardless of how hard the Kremlin may be working to stoke Olympic-inspired patriotism (as plenty of other governments do), Russians, like people everywhere, don’t need much prodding to rally around their athletes and cheer for them. And the farcical nature of the sanctions they’re competing under serve to minimize the initial offense in public opinion, playing into official complaints that the world order is simply out to get Russia.

And so the Games, and Tchaikovsky, play on, with plenty of reasonable people in Russia and elsewhere feeling that Russian athletes who were never caught doping should have their chance at an Olympics, regardless of previous mistakes by their peers and those governing Russian sports.

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ROC Makes Quick Work of Canada in Men's Volleyball Quarters

NBC Chicago 02 August, 2021 - 08:33pm

Eight teams face off in quarterfinal matches to determine which four will advance to the semifinals.

Follow along as the Russian Olympic Committee takes on Canada, Japan plays Brazil, Italy battles Argentina and Poland faces France.

Having fallen just short of a medal at Rio 2016, the Russian Olympic Committee on Tuesday worked its way into the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics, sweeping Canada at Ariake Arena.

The Russians, who lost the bronze-medal to the United States in Rio, was in charge from the outset, winning the first set, 25-21. The second set was the most competitive, Canada making its foe put in some extra work in a 30-28 triumph.

Watch all the action from the Tokyo Olympics live on NBC

Canada fought off a number of match points in the second, and it showed in the third. The ROC's victory never seemed in doubt as it rolled to a 25-22 closeout.

SEE MORE: Brazil eliminates Japan in men's volleyball quarterfinal

In the second shutout of the quarterfinals, Brazil downed Japan 3-0 and ended the home team's medal hopes. 

The reigning champion was never in any real trouble of being eliminated, but Japan fought to keep the score close in all three sets. The game marked the first time in 29 years that the Japanese men's volleyball team made an appearance in an Olympic quarterfinal. 

With the 25-20, 25-22, 25-20 win, Brazil advanced to the semifinals. 

Argentina has knocked out two of the teams that stood on the podium in Rio in its path to the semifinals.

It first overcame the bronze medalist by defeating Team USA in pool play and eliminated Italy, the 2016 silver medalist, in the quarterfinals.

Italy took the lead early with a 25-21 victory in Set 1, but Argentina maintained a short memory throughout the match to ultimately win 21-25, 25-23, 25-22, 14-25, 15-12.

In a match that took more than two hours, France rose from the brink of elimination to top Poland in five sets 21-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-21, 15-9

SEE MORE: France triumphs over Poland to advance to men's semifinals

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