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Russian Doping Film ‘Icarus’ Nominated for an Oscar

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Documentary film "Icarus" won an Academy Award. Photo: Netflix

Icarus, the documentary which exposes revelations about Russian doping, has been nominated for an Oscar.

The film is the product of American Bryan Fogel, who spent nearly two years documenting the scope of the alleged Russian doping program.

It has been shortlisted in the best documentary (feature) category at the 90th edition of the Academy Awards.

Allegations in the documentary are often viewed as playing in a part in the doping crisis which has seen Russia sent to the international sporting wilderness, with the nation being forced to compete at next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang under a neutral banner.

The beginning of the film sees cycling enthusiast Fogel looking to tell a story in which he experimented with performance-enhancing drugs, stemming from his fascination with Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who was stripped of his titles after admitting to doping.

Keen to test how much of an upper hand performance-enhancing drugs provide riders, he seeks out American anti-doping scientist Don Catlin to help him dose up before an amateur race.

Catlin then refers Fogel to the-then Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, who would go on to make allegations to the New York Times about a Russian doping operation at events including the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi.

Rodchenkov alleged the Russian Sports Ministry “directed, controlled and oversaw” a “unique” method of sample manipulation during Sochi 2014, involving a sample-swapping method where they had been able to open and reseal tamper-proof bottles.

Having fled Russia to the United States, he then assisted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-Commissioned investigation by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, which alleged that around 1,000 Russians across Summer, Winter, non-Olympic and Paralympic sport were implicated in a doping manipulation scheme at events taking place between 2011 and 2015.

Rodchenkov says in the film that “I do not believe that the Olympic Games can be won without any pharmacological support”.

He also admits to spending years helping to obtain steroids for Russian athletes and then disguising the effects.

Dan Cogan, a producer on the film, told the Los Angeles Times “everything changed” in November 2015 when the first WADA Independent Commission report into numerous allegations of anti-doping rule violations put Rodchenkov at the centre of the escalating scandal.

“All of a sudden we’re thinking, ‘how do we keep this person – or even us – safe from the Russians?'” he said in an interview.

In Icarus, Rodchenkov flees to the US amid increasing fear over the Russian Government’s response to the allegations he makes on camera.

Fogel and Cogan put him up in a Southern California safe house, but after two of Rodchenkov’s colleagues die several weeks later, he is urged by Fogel and producers to go to the New York Times in the hope that he will be safer if he’s known to the public.

Icarus is up against Abacus: Small Enough to JailFaces PlacesLast Men in Aleppo and Strong Island in its Oscar category.

The ceremony will take place on March 4 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

In a tweet from the film’s official account, Icarus is described as a documentary “which took down an empire.”

By Dan Palmer

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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