‘Icarus’: Doctor in Netflix Documentary Could Mean Russia is Banned From the 2018 Olympics

The International Olympic Committee will decide next week whether the previous host county can partake in the next Games, and damning diary entries by Dr. Grigory Rodchenko might be the tipping point.
Will Netflix's 'Icarus' Doctor Get Russia Banned from 2018 Olympics?
Courtesy of Netflix

In Netflix’s “Icarus,” director Bryan Fogel documented Dr. Grigory Rodchenko, the chemist who said he helped the Russian government execute a doping scheme at the 2014 Winter Olympics, then turned whistleblower after meeting Fogel. Now, Rodchenko has supplied diaries to the International Olympic Committee that may determine whether Russia competes at the 2018 Games.

The New York Times has seen the journals, two hardback volumes that cover 2014 and 2015. On December 5, the I.O.C.’s Disciplinary Commission will announce its decision, and according to a document it published this week, Rodchenko’s entries have been deemed authentic and unaltered, meriting consideration “as a significant evidential element.”

Sochi, a city on Russia’s Western coast, hosted the 2014 Olympics over 16 days in February. Throughout, Rodchenko provided athletes and coaches with an original concoction made from three anabolic steroids and vermouth. Months in advance, the ingesting athletes collected clean urine samples in Moscow, which were eventually sent to Sochi. During the Games, a sports official sent Rodchenko a nightly list of athletes whose samples required switching.

After midnight each night, Rodchenko went to to the Sochi Olympic Anti-Doping Laboratory. There, he and a man he believed to be a Russian intelligence official waited for a colleague to pass sealed, dirty samples through a hand-sized hole in the wall, usually hidden by a cabinet (pictured here). The alleged official took the samples away, and returned with the caps loosened, so Rodchenko and his team could sterilize more than 100 bottles and exchange their contents.

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.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has denied any government involvement, and other officials have insinuated that Rodchenko masterminded the conspiracy himself. Rodchenko now lives in the United States as part of the Witness Protection Program, but faces a recent related criminal charge in Russia, which could attempt to extradite him. In 2016, the World Anti-Doping Agency commissioned an independent investigator who verified Rodchenko’s account.

Fogel’s documentary won prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival, and Critics Choice Documentary Awards. Watch the trailer below.

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