The Culture Movies

'Icarus' should delve more into motivations of Russian Olympians

The film follows the odyssey of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia’s Anti-Doping Center, who, under the guise of testing Russia’s Olympians for illegal usage, was actually gaming the system.

A still from the movie ‘Icarus.’
Courtesy of Netflix
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Caption
( Unrated )
  • Peter Rainer
    Film critic

Bryan Fogel’s documentary “Icarus” begins as a Morgan Spurlock-like jape in which Fogel, an amateur bicyclist, attempts to reproduce the self-administered steroid use that the pre-discredited Lance Armstrong employed to become a perennial Tour de France champion. Thankfully, the film moves into more interesting terrain as it follows the odyssey of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia’s Anti-Doping Center, who, under the guise of testing Russia’s Olympians for illegal usage, was actually gaming the system by tampering with steroid-infested urine samples. As the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro approached, he decides to tell all to The New York Times, forcing him to separate from his family and go into hiding.

Fogel had intimate access to Rodchenkov during this period, and the good/bad doctor emerges as both tortured and bumptious. One aspect of this story that could have been more deeply underscored: The steroid use that ultimately banned so many Russian Olympians was not just about winning. It was about winning under threat of disgrace or death. The smiles bestowed by Vladimir Putin on the Russian winners at the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi are laced with poison. Grade: B (This movie is not rated.) 

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