Icarus the secret world of doping!
Icarus has been nominated for an Oscar, cyclist and filmmaker Bryan Fogel never expected his EPO experiment to expose a massive Russian doping scandal would be nominated.
Lance Armstrong interviews Bryan Fogel, epic quote “All you need is the red blood cells”
“Icarus” starts as a first-person investigation of doping in sports—a sort of “Super Dope Me” if you will—in which director Bryan Fogel, an amateur cyclist, tries to game the system in the same way that Lance Armstrong did for years. Fogel begins a drug routine, injecting PEDs, testosterone, and who knows what else into his thighs and ass. The first half-hour of “Icarus” centers on Fogel trying to increase his stamina and cycling ability through drugs, and trying to pass tests designed to stop such things at the same time. To guide him, Fogel is put in touch with Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian anti-doping program and an important figure in athletics in that country. Rodchenkov is a documentarian’s dream, the kind of larger-than-life character that typically exists only in Hollywood. He regularly quotes George Orwell, forms a playful friendship with Fogel, and even comes to visit.
And then “Icarus” takes a turn that you may have read about in the papers. It turns out that Russia, under Rodchenkov’s watch, wasn’t so much anti-doping as anti-getting-caught-doping. Rodchenkov becomes an international whistleblower, revealing that he helped design and implement a system that not only gave the Russian Olympians a drug-fueled advantage but then worked to hide the regimen from WADA and the IOC. And Rodchenkov claims this systemic cheating was overseen and ordered from the very top, Vladimir Putin. Yes, it’s another story of Russian conspiracies and urine, although maybe not the one you heard.
As “Icarus” gets deeper into Rodchenkov’s whistleblowing, it becomes less Spurlock and more Poitras. Fogel wisely steps out of the spotlight and often allows Rodchenkov to tell his stories with minimal interference. He clearly realized that a film that started as the story of a cyclist interested in doping in his favorite sport became something much greater. Rodchenkov honestly fears for his life as more and more details of the Russian conspiracy are recorded not just by the film but by attorneys, the IOC, and even the New York Times. When one of Rodchenkov’s colleagues dies under suspicious circumstances, “Icarus” takes on qualities of a thriller. Will Rodchenkov survive long enough to blow his whistle loud enough for the world to hear it?
First published https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/icarus-2017