Could you imagine if an entire country’s Olympic team was using steroids? The Olympics would be rigged and the winners would be known long before the competitions. There would not be much point in watching the games if this were true. Over winter break, I watched the documentary “Icarus,” which covers the controversial Russian doping scandal of their Olympics team in Sochi, Russia. Bryan Fogel set out to document the ease of cheating the drug test, but the story evolved into a thrilling discovery for the history books.
Fogel was an amateur cyclist who admired Lance Armstrong as a kid, until he found out he cheated. Armstrong won the Tour de France 7 times, all while using steroids. The thing is, Lance Armstrong passed over 500 drug tests. Brian sought to show just how unreliable these tests are and how easily they can be cheated. Under doctors’ insight and provision, Brian started using steroids to attempt to cheat the system himself and have a clean test result.
However, once he started speaking with Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory, the documentary took a dangerous political turn. The man who is supposed to be testing and preventing the use of illegal substances for Olympians is the very mastermind that cheated the Olympics, assisting Russian athletes to pass the drug test. Rodchenkov did not do this because he wanted to, but because he was ordered to: Russia had state funded doping. Grigory Rodchenkov took orders from Yuri Nagornykh, the vice sports minister, who reported to the sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who reported to Vladimir Putin. Putin wanted to ensure Russia would perform the best while hosting the games in Sochi, so he ordered the Olympians to be using performance enhancing drugs during the games. The crazy part is, this is not the first time. Russia has been using steroids in every sport since 1968, except for a couple weeks before the event to not get caught. This is by far the biggest scandal in sports history.
Rodchenkov used Fogel’s documentary as a way to finally get the truth out to the rest of the world, putting them both in a very dangerous situation. Two other anti-doping officials, Vyacheslav Sinev and Nikita Kamaev, suspiciously passed away within a few days of each other. If the suspicions were true, Grigory Rodchenkov was bound to be next. With his life in danger, Fogel purchased a plane ticket for Grigory to flee Russia to Los Angeles. They disclosed the story to the New York Times along with a list of athletes who used steroids and computer files full of evidence. Rodchenkov was placed in the Witness Protection Program and his location is unknown to any who may want revenge.
Together, Bryan Fogel and Grigory Rodchenkov successfully broke an ongoing scandal of 46 years, while putting to shame Russia’s highest powers, all while preserving their own lives in the midst of one of the most dangerous countries in the world. So what does this mean for Russia’s Olympic team from now on? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has cleared 169 Russian athletes to compete this winter under the Olympic flag instead of Russia’s.
This winter’s Olympics will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea. The opening ceremony is February 9th, and closing ceremonies are held on February 25th. With this year’s Olympics in such close proximity to another dangerous country, and with the tragic death of Otto Warmbier, lets hope everything goes as planned. The games will be much more enjoyable to watch knowing the measures taken against Russia may have prevented an unfair advantage for any athlete.