Bryan Fogel and “Icarus”

Bryan Fogel

A sobering tale of corruption in sport

Suzanne Snively, ONZM

Chair

Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

New Zealand Rugby and Crimestoppers recently hosted Academy Award-Winning film director Bryan Fogel at a presentation about his Netflix documentary, ICARUS, in Wellington. It was attended by a large crowd of sports administrators, government officials and interested stakeholders. 

Fogel’s presentation provided the context to which his award-winning documentary “Icarus” came into being. He filled in the back story to what is a fascinating and at the same time very troubling revelation about integrity at the highest levels in world sport. 

The movie “Icarus” was inspired in the first instance by the Lance Armstrong revelations. These fascinated Fogel, both as a very enthusiastic amateur cyclist and an investigator looking at a flawed system. The latter enabled one of the most tested athletes on the planet to evade a so-called world class anti-doping regime.

Testing the regime

Fogel initially tested whether it was as easy to beat the regime as Lance Armstrong had demonstrated. He started by contacting medical people in the States to request that they put him on a doping program similar to that which had been used by Lance Armstrong.  He was eventually put in touch with the Head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, Dr Grigory Rodchenkov. Over several months, Fogel and Rodchenkov became good friends and as such, Grigory agreed to put Bryan on a doping program.

Revelations in German newspapers about the widespread state sponsored doping within the Russian sports movement appeared about six months later.  Dr. Rodchenkov fearing for his life, emigrated at very short notice to the United States, arranged and funded by Fogel. 

The rest of the movie is devoted to the exposure of the Russian state-sponsored program to dope all its Olympic athletes. This culminated in the swapping-out of dirty urine for clean urine at the Sochi Games and the media and political storm that followed. 

Ongoing indifference

Fogel’s presentation picked up the story from where the movie had left off. He went on to detail how some of the world’s leading sports governing bodies such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), had failed to treat the Icarus revelations with appropriate seriousness.

Fogel provided a very scathing view about the integrity demonstrated at the highest levels of world sport governance. Sadly one of his worst nightmares happened shortly afterwards – the International Olympic Committee ended the sanctions on Russian athletes in Olympics before their period as individuals came to an end.

It was a sobering message to those of us in New Zealand who consider we have very low levels of corruption in sport. ICARUS provides an unique insight into the actual and potential for corruption at the highest levels of sport worldwide. It could happen here, given the looseness of current legislation accompanied by a strong desire to always be the winner.

Representative Media Coverage

Icarus director: NZ sports’ ‘conflict of interest

Bryan Fogel on how doping documentary ‘Icarus’ changed sport

More money in sport means more corruption – Bryan Fogel

Meet the man who exposed Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme

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