Icarus

“Icarus” is a documentary on Netflix. You should watch it, it’s very good. There’s no need to look up more about it, it’s better to just watch the movie.


Ok, if you want a bit more information, then – without spoilers – here it is. “Icarus” begins as a documentary about an American amateur cyclist, Bryan Fogel, who in 2014 injects himself with testosterone, steroids and other drugs to win a gruelling cycle race in the French Alps. At the same time, he learns how to pass drug checks from sports scientists: how to store his “clean” urine during pauses in his doping protocol, how the tests work and how to beat them. He films everything he does – the idea of his movie is to find out if taking performance enhancing drugs really is as effective at helping you win and widespread, and if avoiding detection is as easy as some people say.

Before he began deliberating taking drugs, Fogel was already a very good amateur cyclist. He had competed in the Haute Route race in the Alps in France the year before, over the same routes in the French Alps as the Tour De France, and he had finished in 14th place out of 440 riders. Nevertheless, he felt the very best riders on the race were way better that there was a huge, insurmountable gap in speed and endurance between the winners and himself. Fogel had been a huge fan of Lance Armstrong, he had been disappointed when Armstrong was exposed as a cheat, and he wondered how much of a difference drugs can make.

As Fogel injects drugs, his strength and endurance increase. He meets different sports scientists, most of whom work professionally to try and catch drug cheats, and who think this idea is crazy, but who are curious to see if can be done, and offer some suggestions. He cycles faster, further, training for the next Haute Route event. Eventually, Fogel is introduced to Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of the Russian anti-doping agency, and chats to him on the computer via Skype. Rodchenkov is an odd, cheerful character, enthusiastic about helping Fogel win, and tells him specific details about how to cheat and get away with it: how many grams of this drug or that drug, how many days to wait after taking a particular drug before taking a urine sample, how to combine different drugs. It isn’t at all clear why Rodchenkov wants to help so much, how he knows all this stuff, and why he is so confident that it will work and not be detected.

So far, this all a great movie … and then the story changes. It becomes a much bigger, and even more interesting story and … well, you should watch the movie, I recommend it.


Oh, and once you have seen the movie, here is a good interview with Bryan Fogel at vulture.com