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‘Icarus’ Filmmakers Respond to Russia’s Olympics Ban For ‘State-Sponsored Doping System’

Plus, their subject, whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, weighs in on the true meaning of "innocence" in a fraught case.


Courtesy of Netflix

In an unprecedented move, the International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from the 2018 Olympic Games. Per the New York Times, “Russia’s Olympic team has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The country’s government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound. Any athletes from Russia who receive special dispensation to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals.”

The outlet adds that the I.O.C., “after completing its own prolonged investigations that reiterated what had been known for more than a year, handed Russia penalties for doping so severe they were without precedent in Olympics history. The ruling cemented that the nation was guilty of executing an extensive state-backed doping program.”

In December 2016, the I.O.C. began disciplinary proceedings against 28 athletes who represented Russia at the previous Winter Games. Thus far, they have been ordered to return 11 medals, but in August six of the disqualified athletes told Reuters that they failed to do so. The decision was at least partially aided by information provided by Dr. Grigory Rodchenko, a chemist who said he helped the Russian government execute a widespread doping scheme at the 2014 Winter Olympics before becoming a whistleblower.

Filmmaker Bryan Fogel documented Rodchenko’s journey from state doctor to whistleblower in his recent documentary “Icarus.” As we reported last week, Rodchenko supplied diaries to the International Olympic Committee to help determine whether Russia may compete at the 2018 Games.

Fogel and producer Dan Cogan have now issued a statement in regards to today’s announcement, which reads: “We applaud today’s decision by the International Olympic Committee. As we learned in the making of our documentary ‘Icarus,’ the Russian state ran a vast, state-sponsored doping system that made a mockery of the Olympic ideals of brotherhood and fair play. We salute whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who risked so much to tell this story, and support all those who are willing to speak truth to power.”

Additionally, a telephone press conference with Jim Walden, the lawyer for Russian whistle-blower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, has been scheduled with journalists for this afternoon. During the conference, Walden will offer his first public comments following the announcement of the decision of the International Olympic Committee regarding punishment for Russia following investigations of an elaborate state-sponsored doping scheme.

Walden has also released his own written statement, along with excerpts of Dr. Rodchenkov’s affidavit to the Schmid Commission, which is available here. It reads in part, “Today’s decision by the International Olympic Committee sends a powerful message that it will not tolerate state-sponsored cheating by any nation. As the world has seen, Dr. Rodchenkov provided credible and irrefutable evidence of the Russian state-sponsored doping system…Now, WADA and two IOC disciplinary commissions have fully confirmed the accuracy of Dr. Rodchenkov’s account.”

He added, “Dr. Rodchenkov personally agrees with the IOC’s determination that innocent athletes should compete as neutrals. However, he believes a finding of ‘innocence’ should have a strict meaning to protect all clean athletes:  ‘innocent’ should mean athletes (a) against whom WADA possesses no evidence of complicity (including against the coach); (b) who have no prior anti-doping rule violations; and (c) who test clean in pre-competition testing by independent testing authorities.”

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