Bikes, steroids and doping scandal in Russian sport

Brian Fogel (Fogel Bryan) started to accept doping, inspired by the example of lance Armstrong (Lance Armstrong). In January 2013, Vogel saw an interview that the famous cyclist gave to Oprah Winfrey in which he admitted that he really had used stimulants, which enabled him to win seven victories at the Tour de France.

Fogel, 45-year-old filmmaker from California, was impressed by these revelations, but he had been even more shocked at how the American experts were able to finally catch Armstrong doping. “The athlete, who was under the closest on Earth observation, has passed 500 doping tests, and called his members of his own team who were doing this and decided to surrender it in exchange for his own immunity,” he told me Vogel.

“I said, “What’s wrong with this system?” Note that with the system, not with lance Armstrong. This system, pursued him for 15 years and could not catch. What consequences this may have for all athletes — not just cyclists? These questions made me go in my journey — I started taking doping”.

This “journey” has led to the creation of the film “Icarus”, a documentary film, shooting of which began in 2014. Vogel — short and slender male — typical figure of the cyclist — which is one of the best Amateur riders. He wanted to know whether drugs to enhance his athletic performance, and decided to document this experiment. But, when it all began, he did not know that this experiment will involve him in one of the most serious scandals in the sports world.

Initially, the idea of Vogel was to create a sports version of “Double shot” (Super Size Me) documentary — the 2004 film in which Morgan Spurlock (Morgan Spurlock) ate only food from McDonald’s restaurants to see what impact it will have on his health and well-being (the result: almost complete physical and mental decline).

Vogel planned to start to take part in an Amateur bike race Haute Tour — multi-day Bicycle race, which is considered one of the most prestigious races for Amateurs. In 2014, being “clean”, he has overcome a difficult distance, reaching the finish line 14th out of 400 participants. “When I got to the finish in the year I had acute tendonitis of the Achilles tendon, I had hip dysplasia. I tore the muscle. I could not walk. I needed crutches. I spent two days lying in bed”.

One year, during which Vogel’s doping scheme, similar to scheme Armstrong, he again took part in this race. Due to mechanical breakdowns, he came 27th out of 600 participants, but the condition of his body was completely different. “I sleep better, — he said. — I have increased libido. My muscles became clearly contributes. It’s easier to control your weight. But the most important is the recovery.”

“Am I physically stronger? No. But the difference was that I could take part in the race, to push his body all the juices and the next day I felt fine and was able again to mock his body. During the races I felt the same painful feeling… but [doping increased the number] of hormones that allow my body to recover faster”.

Armstrong said that in that period of time when he participated in the Tour de France, to win this grueling race without the help of doping was impossible. He believed that almost all of his rivals were using illegal drugs. The main excuse Armstrong was the fact that he is a corrupted part of the system. Don’t blame the player, blame the system.

Vogel comes to the equally disturbing conclusion. “I’m not defending Armstrong and do not accuse him, he says. — I think that how he behaved was wrong. To sue, to be cruel and rude to others. As a person he has behaved incorrectly, and in this sense it caused a lot of damage”.

“But as an athlete he won seven Tour de France, and I believe he won in fair conditions. All the athletes of his team was dope, all his rivals were dope. No one else deserved victory in the Tour de France as he deserved it. He aspired to achieve perfection”.

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This material should have been enough — more than enough — to create a provocative film. However, in the process of its creation Vogel suddenly made a sharp turn that “Icarus” has become one of the most anticipated films of this year. (You should immediately stop reading this article if you fear spoilers.) That is why this project has provoked a fierce struggle between his potential buyers, which Netflix acquired the movie rights for $ 5 million — a huge sum for a documentary.

I met with Vogel in a London hotel a warm spring morning. He looked more stylish than sports, and he was wearing a dark red blazer and brown leather cowboy boots. We sat opposite each other in the middle of a large room, where except for a pair of leather chairs next to nothing happened. Given the fact that the room was only two of us, at first it seemed that our conversation should turn into an interrogation.

Vogel didn’t just want to be doping. He wanted, like Armstrong, to see if he could be doping, so the tests showed nothing. For this he needed an experienced expert consultant, who will devise a special regimen of drugs so that drug tests showed nothing. And this search ultimately led him to Gregory Rodchenkov.

When they started talking in April 2014, Rodchenkov was the Director of the Russian anti-doping center in Moscow and was considered one of the world’s leading experts in matters of doping. When he was at University, he was quite capable of the long distance runner, but he could not get into the national team. While he ran, he took illegal drugs — his mother gave him shots.

After graduation, he combined his scientific background and love of sports in Moscow anti-doping laboratory. Rodchenkov gladly responded to the invitation from Fogel to participate in his project, to assist the Director to violate the very rules that he has long had to defend.

I was wondering why Rodchenkov generally agreed to help Vogel. Even if he just gave advice on which drugs must be taken, he certainly violated the rules set by the world anti-doping Agency (WADA). At best it could fire immediately after the release of the film. “I’m sure he knew it, and I think that, perhaps, he thought, “I’m the star of this film, I’ll be the Advisor, other organizations and the Commission would take me to work,” said Vogel. He doesn’t like to obey. He loves a challenge. He doesn’t like to play by the rules.”

In the movie they talk on Skype. During one conversation Rodchenkov sitting without a shirt. In another, interrupts his dog. When Vogel complains that regular injections leave large bruises, Rodchenkov said to him with a very noticeable Russian accent: “you Can do injections in the thigh muscle, but it’s better in the ass”. It was all kind of funny — in the style of Borat.

But the fun soon came to an end. While Vogel was working on “Icarus”, in November 2015 was a report issued by the WADA, which Rodchenkova dubbed the main element of a large-scale conspiracy: he was named developer of the doping regime, sponsored by Russian government and designed to provide the leadership of Russia at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted these games become the “first ball” for his country, so he spent about $ 51 billion to transform the black sea resort in the snowy Wonderland for winter sports. Because it spent a huge amount of silver, the Kremlin expected that the Russian athletes will bring him a lot of gold. And they coped with the task: Russia topped the table of the medal standings.

In the film, Fogel asks Rodchenkova to read a few excerpts from George Orwell’s novel “1984”, suggesting to the viewer that this Russian — modern Winston Smith (Winston Smith) caught in a trap of lies set by the totalitarian state. However, imagine Rodchenkova the hero of this story pretty hard. Usually those who are caught at the reception of illegal drugs, feelings of guilt. Former British professional cyclist David Millar (David Millar) admitted that he had used doping during the competition, the Tour de France. French police caught him and later he wrote that the police found two syringes used a year earlier, “hidden on a bookshelf as a reminder of what I did.” After the end of the period of Ineligibility Millar tried to redeem himself by becoming an active supporter of clean sports.

Meanwhile, Rodchenkov proud that he was able to create a system that allowed to deceive his colleagues from the international anti-doping agencies and bring glory to the Russian athletes. “These people, this country has a completely different mentality, told me Vogel. You should put yourself in their place… If you like Gregory, growing up in a world which was ruled by the Communist regime, if everyone was doping, if your own mother gave him shots, no one saw anything wrong. Just had to do it to get into the national team”.

In this distorted perception of the sport “there is nothing reprehensible”. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Strength in ignorance. But lance Armstrong, seven times won the Tour de France fair and square.

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Given the seriousness of the theme, “Icarus” began to compare with the film “Citizenfour: Snowden Truth” — a documentary by Laura Poitras (Laura Poitras), which tells the story of Edward Snowden, who informed the world that American and British security services were spying on millions of people.

But Vogel admits that he is not a journalist and not involved in investigative journalism. To work on “Icarus,” he was best known for his play “signs of compatibility” (“Jewtopia”) — a romantic Comedy about courtship among the Jews, which is a long time coming in Los Angeles and new York. Critics tore the film, shot by Vogel in explanation of this play. But now critics unanimously praised the “Icarus”, which was named the winner of Orwell at the festival “Sundance”. Vogel, apparently, wants to keep the newfound seriousness.

From the film it becomes clear that Rodchenkov began to prepare for the transition to the enemy in 2012, after a quarrel with influential Russian coach when he was charged with selling steroids.

© RIA Novosti, Valery Melnikov | go to photobacteria the Federal state unitary enterprise “Antidoping center” Grigory Rodchenkov

He believed that his career came to an end, and tried to commit suicide. He was rescued, but was placed in a Moscow psychiatric hospital. He was released from there, when he received an invitation to go to London Olympic games 2012 as one of the leading officials of the Russian anti-doping agencies. All materials of the case against Rodchenkova mysteriously disappeared, and he returned to Russia to start the preparations for the Sochi games. However, the Patriotic blinders were taken.

“At the moment, I believe he began to collect materials for a rainy day,” said Vogel.

Since Rodchenkov, apparently began to understand that it can at any time expose. At the beginning of “Icarus” he asks, “have You seen my movie? Another movie?” In December 2014, the German channel ARD showed a documentary film made by journalist, Hyo Sepelcom (Hajo Seppelt) entitled “Doping: top secret” (The Secrets of Doping: How Russia Makes Its Winners). Rodchenkov unwittingly became the star of this film. It showed footage of filming with a hidden camera, made by the former runner Yulia Stepanova, and 99% of Russian athletes have been accused of receiving banned drugs. This documentary has forced WADA to establish an independent Commission, headed by canadian law Professor Richard McLaren (Richard McLaren). The investigation McLaren came to the conclusion that Rodchenkov was developed by the Russian doping program.

“I met Rodchenkova a few months after the Sochi games, told Vogel. He knew about what happened. Hyo Seppelt was watching him at the time… I think Gregory felt that his time is running out. He knew that eventually he has all the advantages. He knew everything. He had the evidence. It is as if all this time preparing”.

When he was forced to resign as head of the Russian anti-doping Agency, Rodchenkov using the Vogel moved to Los Angeles in November 2015. “In the first half of the film, he was my mentor. He was my protector, my Advisor, my friend. He helped me create this movie. I have not paid him a single dollar… But suddenly he got in trouble, and our role has changed radically. Suddenly, I became his protector, in fact his lawyer, his agent, his mouthpiece and in fact — I’ll try to find the right word — a guide to its history, which was supposed to know the whole world”.

“At that moment I believed it was my duty. It was a very important story. She was truthful. I knew it was true. It was a media nuclear bomb. She changed the course of sports history. She changed the course of history of the Olympic games. It was an incredible scandal, and what was I supposed to do? To throw it out there? To deny him protection, despite the fact that he helped me? I felt that I had a moral duty.”

In the report of the McLaren contained very disturbing allegations, including the accusation that Rodchenkov demanded from the athletes money for covering up positive doping tests — he denies it — the prosecution, which pointed to the fact that Rodchenkov was not just a soldier, carrying out orders. Fogel sided Rodchenkova, saying that he believes the Russians.

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In “Icarus” many such dark corners. In 2016, Nikita Kamaev, the former Executive Director of the Russian anti-doping Agency, died suddenly at the age of 52 years. According to authorities, the cause was a “massive heart attack”. Rodchenkov believes that Kamaev, his colleague and friend, was planning to write a book about his work.

In the film, Vogel reacted to the death Kamaeva words: “I don’t know how you think they could…” it Rodchenkov said, “Brian, we are in the most dangerous game in the history of sports”.

Later with Rodchenkova contacted the FBI, and he was forced to testify before an investigative Grand jury in a us Federal court. He decided to tell the whole story, and they, along with Fogel forwarded the materials to the New York Times. In may 2016 came the sensational article. It said that Rodchenkov has created a “cocktail” of anabolic steroids, which the Russian sportsmen took many years. These drugs to wash down the alcohol that contributed to better absorption.

Usually athletes stop taking the dope for a few days or weeks before a competition so the body had to withdraw illegal drugs. However, given the hopes that the Russian government pinned to their athletes in Sochi, it was necessary to develop a more ambitious plan. The Ministry of sports of Russia, according to some reports, demanded that the Russians continued to use banned drugs during the Olympic games, to guarantee success. Rodchenkov said that the FSB found a way to remove the lids from the containers of urine that were previously resistant to replace “dirty” “clean”.

As part of a secret operation carried out under cover of night and planned so that the participants could avoid the surveillance cameras and independent observers, security agents and officials of the Russian anti-doping Agency passed each other bottles through a hole in the wall. Rodchenkov took a picture of this hole that was in the floor and which was concealed in the wardrobe. Then the representative of President Vladimir Putin has named these statements slander defector.

As a journalist I tried to understand why Vogel was in no hurry to release his film. Why was it necessary to give these sensational materials of the newspaper? “We realized that if we manifest all that… throw in the world this bomb, describing how all was actually, we devoured because we haven’t had a chance to prove it, explained Vogel. — Handing these materials to the New York Times, we managed to make this story credible. That’s exactly what happened. Now WADA was obliged to do his job and investigate”.

The plan worked. Based on the testimony Rodchenkova, McLaren has prepared another report which confirmed these allegations and forced WADA to make an unprecedented request to deprive Russian athletes of the right to participate in the Olympic games in Rio. The international Association of athletics federations banned Russian athletes to take part in these games. The Kremlin reacted negatively, saying that all these steps were part of a Western conspiracy designed to deprive Russia of its international prestige.

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These revelations came at a cost Rodchenkova. He couldn’t convince his wife and two children to move to the US before the outbreak of the scandal, and they still live apart. Now concerning Rodchenkova operates a witness protection program and his place of residence was not disclosed. Vogel didn’t want to tell me whether they support the relationship in the present.

Russia also suffered some losses. The international Olympic Committee refused to disqualify all Russian athletes by providing sports Federation the right to decide how clean Russian athletes and if they can take part in the games in Rio. In the end, the games were attended by 271 of 386 the Russian athletes.

Vogel still mad at the IOC. “It was an unimaginable betrayal that they have committed to all honest sportsmen of the world who came to those Olympics to contend with, who have invested in the training of my entire soul, believing in the Olympic ideals.” It protects Rodchenkova, but strongly criticizes the IOC for what he did not punish Russia for fraud. And he does not believe that the sport can be totally “clean”.

“I think it’s very hard to believe in the idea of a clean sport. It has been a relentless game of cat-and-mouse, he says. — Science, medical technology and human evolution will always seek to cheat the system, trying to catch them. One has only to take up any scientific journal and you will see that the athletes of the future clearly are products of genetic engineering, because science will be able to achieve it.”

Vogel’s film shows the harsh reality of modern sport. The anti-doping system is not working, she can’t catch those who are trying to work around it. Viewers can still get pleasure from the brilliant performances of the athletes, but winners don’t have to equate to the heroes.

“I have no idea who is doping and who is not, says Vogel. — But all the athletes are trying to get an edge on the competition, whether through new diets, new food, new supplements, not yet prohibited. Every year, athletes take hundreds of supplements, which are not yet in the list of WADA, and which in a year can appear”.

“As for sports we should just calm down and have fun. This is a stunner. If one of the brilliant athletes uses or doesn’t use any medications, this does not preclude their achievement entertainment. But to believe that the sport can be clean… In the world there is something clean? We don’t even know that you need to invest in the concept of purity.”