When documentary filmmaker Bryan Fogel began looking into drugs in sport, he envisaged pulling off a bold stunt to show how easy it was to cheat anti-doping tests.
Little did he know he would end up making a geopolitical thriller about Russian doping involving dirty urine, a troubling death and the biggest scandal in sporting history.
Due for release on Netflix next Friday, Fogel’s “Icarus” shows how Russia corrupted the 2012 Olympics in London and 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, told through the eyes of the man who masterminded the fraud before defecting and turning FBI informant.
It started out as a simple plan to recreate disgraced cyclist Lance
Armstrong’s blood doping regime and document exactly how easy it was to sail through the tests that ought to have caught the American.
“The theory was, if this guy has been able to do this, what has changed in the last four years since his confession and, more importantly, what does this mean for all sport?” Fogel told AFP.
He aimed to illustrate flaws in the system by using roughly the same blood-doping regime as Armstrong and getting an expert to coach him through evading detection during his post-race urine tests.
He ended up being introduced to Russian doctor Grigory Rodchenkov, who oversaw all drug testing for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Moscow’s World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) lab and, astonishingly, was only too happy to help.
Fogel spent six months being coached by the charismatic, maverick
Rodchenkov into taking a variety of substances including human growth hormone EPO, as the pair talked over Skype and met in Los Angeles and Moscow.