When director/producer Bryan Fogel first set out to make “Icarus,” it was to investigate his hypothesis that “the global anti-doping system in sports was a fraud.” An avid cyclist, he was intrigued by the fact that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong “had managed to evade ever testing positive on over 500 drug tests throughout his career,” despite his long-term use of performance-enhancing drugs. Deciding to use himself as a guinea pig in what was meant to be a “Super Size Me”-style documentary about how to game the Olympics, he sought out Grigory Rodchenkov, former head of the Anti-Doping Center in Moscow, and that’s when things took a bizarre turn. Watch our exclusive video interview with Fogel and producer Dan Cogan above.
It turns out that Rodchenkov was in charge of a state-sponsored effort to help Russian athletes successfully dope and win gold medals during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. It was a scandal that rocked the world of sports and resulted in a partial ban for Russia in the 2016 Summer Games and a total ban from the 2018 Winter Games (individual athletes from the country are still allowed to compete, but not under the Russian flag). Fogel’s film turned deadly serious when the scientist-turned-whistle-blower had to flee to the U.S. “It became much more than actually producing a film,” reveals Cogan, a longtime financier of documentaries. “There were all of these political and strategic concerns that we were dealing with on top of the normal filmmaking concerns.”
Yet all of those logistical headaches were worth it to Cogan. “It was important for us to tell Grigory’s story,” he adds, “to help and protect him, and make sure that story made it out into the world in the richest way possible.” Especially before the next Olympics.
The film draws unmistakable parallels between Russia’s doping program and their interference in the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump. “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin essentially viewed that because Rodchenkov had come to the United States” and told his story to The New York Times, “the United States was involved in this,” explains Fogel. “Which was not the case at all, but it was listed as one of the reasons as to why Russia meddled in our election.” And the comparisons don’t stop there. “What we’re seeing is not only the continual denial by Putin and his government that there ever was a conspiracy in place to cheat the Olympics and to cheat sports,” but also “you see the same kind of rhetoric out of the Trump White House, which is essentially that there is no accountability to truth.”
Fogel and Cogan are nominated at the Academy Awards and BAFTAs for Best Documentary Feature. Fogel also contended at the Directors Guild Awards for the film. Cogan previously competed at the Primetime Emmys for “Bobby Fisher Against the World” in 2012 and won a News and Documentary Emmy for “The Crash Reel” in 2014. Will they add an Oscar to their shelves?
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