Backstage Sunday evening, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmakers behind “Icarus” — about widespread doping by Russian athletes — lashed out at the International Olympic Committee for failing to properly punish the country.
“What a corrupt organization,” said Bryan Fogel, the film’s director, co-writer and star, who also called on IOC President Thomas Bach to resign.
Russian officials have apologized for the use of drugs by their athletes, but have denied the state-sanctioned cheating alleged by the film and its source, Grigory Rodchenkov. Rodchenkov was formerly the head of the country’s anti-doping laboratory and has now fled his native country to the United States.
The IOC’s decision to allow Russian athletes to compete individually in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchong, South Korea, and then lift the ban on Russia’s participation going forward amounted to “a slap on the wrist,” Fogel said backstage at the Dolby Theatre.
Producer Dan Cogan said the goal of the movie was never to attack Russia. And, in fact, Fogel started out planning to compete in a grueling bicycle race while taking performance-enhancing drugs himself. Fogel met Rodchenkov in the process of searching out someone to test his blood.
“The goal of this movie was never to go after Russia,” Cogan said. “If there are clean Russian athletes competing, we’re thrilled for them. … What the IOC has done … really is a fraud.”
All of Rodchenkov’s claims have been proven “chemically, forensically,” Cogan said.
Fogel was even more insistent.
“The truth is the truth is the truth and then there’s fake news,” the director said, praising Rodchenkov as a “truth-teller and a whistleblower” and calling Russia’s efforts to discredit the film “irrelevant.”
Based on the latest information available to the filmmakers, the threat against Rodchenkov is “very real … there’s a hunt going on for him,” Fogel said. “In Russia, he’s been made out to be a liar … the Russian media has not honestly reported on this story.”
The former head of the Russian Olympic committee, Leonid Tyagachev, said Rodchenkov “should be shot for lying, like Stalin would have done” and Fogel said he does not believe Tyagachev ever retracted the statement. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the whistleblower “an imbecile.”
The truth doesn’t always set you free, despite the cliche, Fogel said. “Not only does it not set you free, it makes you a wanted man” in the case of Rodchenkov.
But the pair had nothing but great things to say about Netflix.
“Netflix has single-handedly changed the documentary world,” Fogel said, calling the decision to work with the content provider and streaming service a “no-brainer.”
“At the touch of a button now, you’re in 190 million homes,” he said.
In his enthusiasm, Cogan may have overstated Netflix’ reach. The streaming service has about 118 million subscribers, according to CNN.
–City News Service
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