Documentary Review: Icarus

One of the major highlights of any year is the big sporting event that takes place that year. This is irrespective of the sport that is having that major event or even sometimes has all the major sports happening at once. Take 2018 for an example. We have the FIFA World Cup going on, the prime sporting event of this year. But clearly one of the biggest sports spectacle on earth has to be the Olympic Games. It is seen as the pinnacle of achievement for any sportsperson to take part and win at the Olympic Games. You can almost feel the exhilaration and the excitement felt by the participants and the roller-coaster of emotions involved in the competition. Well, this documentary movie forces you to take a big step back and turns those emotions into that of shock and anger.

Icarus takes you through the darkest side of sports and that is the world of doping, the use of drugs and restricted medicines by sports persons to enhance their bodily functions and performances. And in this context, the biggest sporting scandal of all times the Russian Olympic doping scandal. The movie starts on the perfect note, about how the director, who is an amateur cyclist himself, recalls how he was driven to this sport by the complete domination of the cycling world and most notably the Tour de France by the one and only Lance Armstrong. He was his hero while growing up and the director gave most of his time to this sport and then came the most shocking revelation ever, Lance Armstrong had used performance enhancing drugs for the most part of his career. He had doped. Director Bryan Fogel mentions of the various other such shocking cases and seeks to dwell deeper into the process which helps these athletes to cheat the anti-doping agencies which are responsible to keep a check on such activities.

During this process of self-experimentation phase which Bryan goes through, which can be said to be either daring or foolhardy, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist changes the scenario. The whole story moves from a personal experience to a geopolitical thriller. Piece-by-piece and in the most detailed way, the film uncovers the truth about how with the help of a state sponsored doping mechanism in place, Russia had fooled the anti-doping agencies and had cheated the Olympics just so that its athletes lead the medal tally.

Icarus won the Best Documentary Feature at the 90th Academy Awards for its brilliant portrayal of truth and for the way it captured the characters involved in this whole saga. This film leaves you in utter shock and makes you question the reality of the athletes which are also heroes for so many people. The emotions of joy and respect to all those athletes gets clouded by speculation. It brings you closer to the truth, however ugly it may seem.