Icarus written and directed by Bryan Fogel
Every once in a while a book or film will completely blow me away. This documentary is in that category. The film starts out as an inside look at doping in athletics. Bryan Fogel is a bicyclist who competes in amateur racing. He wants to know what effects doping might have on his performance while at the same time taking a broader look at how an athlete might go about passing a drug test after using PEDs. That goal leads him to Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of a Russian drug testing laboratory. The film takes a dramatic turn once Grigory enters the picture.
Litle by little Bryan Fogel learns of Grigory’s involvement in the long term, systemic, state sponsored doping of Russian Olympic athletes. What he uncovers over the course of the next ninety minutes is one of the biggest sports conspiracies in history.
If you followed the news surrounding the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio last year, you know there was a big controversy involving the banning of all Russian athletes from competing in the 2016 Olympic summer games. That decision was ultimately relaxed, and most of the athletes were allowed to compete. This film gives a detailed behind the scenes look at what transpired in the months leading up to the Olympics.
A combination of interviews, reenactments, archival footage, animation, and Grigory’s statements are used to prove without any doubt that not only was Russia involved in doping of athletes, but the decision to undertake such measures went all the way to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. When you watch Putin, and his co-conspirators deny their involvement, you know deep down that Putin is every bit the liar and murderer that others claim he is.
Why would someone like Putin take such a risk? A simple graph of Putin’s approval ratings before and after the Sochi Winter Olympics reveals the answer.
While there is no doubt that Grigory Rodchenkov was complicit in what took place, his willingness to come forward, risking his life in the process, affords him a level of redemption. His motivations may be unclear; his actions questionable; but in the end he chose truth.
As to the question of doping in sports, that topic is left unresolved. Yes, doping can boost performance, but it does not guarantee success. Then there is the question of what to do if you know that your competition is using performance enhancement drugs? Those are questions for another documentary. This one has more important topics to cover.
Icarus, the son of Daedalus, flew too close to the sun with wings of feathers and wax. This documentary gets close enough to the sun in this story that it could ultimately bring down a government.
Watch this film! It is destined for an Oscar. See it now on Netflix.