Icarus doping documentary nominated for an Oscar

Lance Armstrong said he was ‘blown away’ at a recent screening

Icarus, the Netflix documentary that was created as a personal voyage about doping for the Haute Route event and ended up exposing the state-sponsored doping in Russia, has been nominated for an Oscar.

Icarus has been shortlisted in the best documentary category at the 90th edition of the Academy Awards, with the winner to be announced on March 4. It has also been nominated for a British BAFTA award.

Lance Armstrong recently hosted a screening of Icarus in New York, saying he was ‘blown away’ by what it revealed and was quick to suggest the alleged Russian doping programme was far more sophisticated than anything he did during his career.

The film was made by keen cyclist Bryan Fogel, who recorded his own doping programme for the Haute Route due to his fascination with Lance Armstrong. The story then captured the scope of the alleged Russian doping programme after Fogel was put in contact with Grigory Rodchenkov, then the director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory.

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. He revealed the intricacies of an alleged doping programme run by coaches, officials and politicians.

Having fled Russia to the United States with help from Gogel, Rodchenkov 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.

During Icarus, Rodchenkov says: "I do not believe that the Olympic Games can be won without any pharmacological support." He also admits to helping Russian athletes obtain steroids and then using his anti-doping lab skills to disguising the effects.

Icarus producer Dan Cogan told the Los Angeles Times that ‘everything changed" in in the documentary 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.

Fogel and Cogan helped Rodchenkov hide in a Southern California safe house but after two of his Russian colleagues died, Fogel took him to the New York Times in the hope that he would be safer if he was known to the wider public. 

Rodchenkov is now in hiding in the US, protected by US authorities, but has recently testified in the Court of Arbitration hearing that will decide if numerous Russian athletes will be allowed to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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