Documentary Film Review: Icarus

Jul 03, 2020

As a follow up to my review of the Lance Armstrong documentary (broadcast on ESPN's 30 for 30), I decided to watch the 2018 Academy Award winning documentary Icarus, which also focused intensely on the issue of performance - enhancing drugs in sports.

I was shocked at the quality of the story-telling and highly recommend you watch Icarus as well on Netflix Canada.

Icarus is the story of the years - long cheating scandals organized by the Russian Government and its Sports Ministry to provide steroids and other drugs to Russian athletes, and to hide and lie about it to the International Sports Federations and Olympic Committees.

The documentary bravely and cleverly reveals inside truths about how the Russians cheated, intimidated, and threatened anyone who could point their finger at the very top.

All those concerned with Russian bad acts for decades will be heartened at the revelations of the piles of evidence which eventually led even reluctant sports officials to ban Russians from competitions.

This documentary leaves no doubt and is the most explosive and detailed revelation of the Russian schemes to deceive the world.

The name "Icarus" refers to the Greek mythological son who was warned by his father not to fly too close to the sun (or too low) for fear his wax wings might melt as he escaped the island. The son doesn't listen and his wings melt and he falls to the sea and drowns.

The Russian (anti-) doping expert who comes clean was used by the Russian Government to assist the country’s athletes in the race to win medals at the Sochi Olympic Games of 2014.

The filmmaker Bryan Fogel began by making a documentary about how doping can cleverly avoid positive tests.

He is sent to the Russian expert initially to help his smaller scale investigation, but stumbles upon the biggest sports scandal of all time, while making his documentary.

The film never formally establishes it, but I speculate that the UCLA scientist who sent documentarian Bryan Fogel to the Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov did so to assist the Russian scientist's clever path to escape mother Russia.   He saw his own way out and by befriending Fogel's smaller investigation, he unlocked the door to his own escape.

Like Icarus, though he flew to freedom, he too risked getting burned. Now living in protective U.S. secret custody, our hero played the double game of double think that George Orwell taught us all so well.

The clear loser is the Russian system of lies and manipulation, bullying and deception, which, fortunately, has aligned western liberals with longtime conservatives in concern over Russian refusal to play fair in international politics and sports.

The same old KGB tricks have been exposed.

Shall the Olympics even be respected again as an honest sports forum, free from manipulation?

Only as spectacle and sport. Enjoy the music, national shows, and the every other year winter / summer Olympics athletic competition.

But never doubt that what you see on the court / field / and medal platform is not just sport, but partially politics, and sometimes very manipulative science, as well.

Here's the official trailer:


Guest contributor Larry Greenfield is a Fellow of The Claremont Institute who has morphed from innocent boyhood SoCal sports fan to cynical Las Vegas sports observer, without current games to bet on.  Greenfield can be contacted at: