Location:Home > news > Team behind film about Russian Olympic doping is urgently trying to protect whistleblower

Team behind film about Russian Olympic doping is urgently trying to protect whistleblower

Time:2018-01-25 13:16Shoes websites Click:

team whistleblower Trying protect urgently

Grigory Rodchenkov, left, with Bryan Fogel in "Icarus." Rodchenkov's doping revelations led to Russia being banned from the 2018 Games and a Russian campaign to discredit him (or worse). Photo: Netflix / Netflix

Photo: Netflix

Image 1of/1

Caption

Close

Image 1 of 1

Grigory Rodchenkov, left, with Bryan Fogel in "Icarus." Rodchenkov's doping revelations led to Russia being banned from the 2018 Games and a Russian campaign to discredit him (or worse).

Grigory Rodchenkov, left, with Bryan Fogel in "Icarus." Rodchenkov's doping revelations led to Russia being banned from the 2018 Games and a Russian campaign to discredit him (or worse).

Photo: Netflix

Team behind film about Russian Olympic doping is urgently trying to protect whistleblower

1 / 1

Back to Gallery

NEW YORK - Hard drives hidden around the country. Burner phones that couldn't be traced. A safe house in Los Angeles.

For the filmmakers behind "Icarus," a cloak-and-dagger story of Russian Olympic doping, the themes of a documentary have for the past two years become the story of their lives. The Russian government has been increasingly trying to undermine - or, they fear, even outright capture - the film's main character, the whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, prompting filmmakers to engage in improbable acts of high-stakes secrecy.

Now, even as the Netflix-backed documentary seeks an Oscar via genteel events hosted by the likes of Rob Reiner, they are confronting their most fraught fight yet.

With Russia facing a ban on official participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics, the "Icarus" filmmakers have been urgently beefing up security around Rodchenkov - hoping to stay a step ahead of a Kremlin that they suspect will get its hands on the chemist and thus stop him from testifying at a Swiss proceeding on Jan. 25 that could decide whether dozens of athletes will be permanently disqualified.

The filmmakers' actions, many of which are being described for the first time, show how narrow the border is between moviemaking and activism.

"We never thought we'd be in this position, trying to shelter a whistleblower and change the world of international sports," said Jim Swartz, co-founder of Impact Partners, which produced and financed the film. But "you hear the word 'Olympics' and it means something. And then what you see is these guys doing everything they can to sweep doping under the rug. We had to do something."

At stake is the fate of dozens of athletes, and some of the questions raised are: What is the proper punishment for Olympic cheating? Who should serve it? And how often should filmmakers be the ones doling it out?

While shooting "Icarus," Rodchenkov described, on camera, how an anti-doping lab at the 2014 Sochi Games served as the place where drug-tainted urine of Russian athletes was swapped out for clean samples, via a network of underground tunnels. Rodchenkov knew this because, he said, he did the swapping. He also said he mixed cocktails of banned performance-enhancing drugs and fed them to athletes.

The allegations made by Rodchenkov, who has since fled to the United States, spawned the 2016 investigation known as the McLaren Report. It also led to other inquiries and ultimately prompted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to issue numerous bans - a formal one for the 2018 Games and lifetime bans for several dozen Russian athletes.

Now those athletes are appealing to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to be reinstated, possibly even for the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, next month.

And Russian authorities have charged Rodchenkov as a drug trafficker and sought his extradition. Without his testimony - which lawyers are hoping he will be allowed to give by video link - U.S. experts say that the bans almost certainly would be overturned.

The Impact group - Swartz and fellow co-founders Dan Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous, as well as "Icarus" director Bryan Fogel and Rodchenkov lawyer Jim Walden - have sought to protect the whistleblower so he can testify at the hearings. Around Christmas, they say, they learned from U.S. government sources of an increased threat to his life and hired additional security to bolster the government's efforts, using money from a nonprofit group they founded.

Russia has denied allegations of widespread doping and said the accusations are part of a larger Western campaign to discredit the country. A press spokesman at the Russian Embassy in Washington did not comment for this article.

The "Icarus" team says it worries for the physical and legal safety of its star witness.

Copyright infringement? Click Here!