Sports and the big screen have forever been intertwined as sporting stories have been portrayed through films and documentaries. 

As part of a new feature, GamblingTV is taking a deeper look at a time in which a gripping sporting narrative was portrayed through the unmistakable medium of cinema. 

The debut edition looks at one of the most gripping sports documentaries to ever be made – filled with twists and turns, Bryan Fogel’s Icarus takes the viewer on a journey they never bargained for. 

It looks at the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in cycling, and through his link with Russian Doctor, Grigory Rodchenkov, lead to the unearthing of the state-sponsored doping scandal that rocked Russian sport. 

It begins with the amateur cyclist Fogel attempting to not only improve his time in a well known non-professional race, but navigate through all urine tests, with the help of a detailed PED plan.

The story intensifies though when Fogel enlists the help of Rodchenkov to guide him through the journey. Fogel then follows the path of the former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory as he becomes embroiled in the state sponsored doping scandal that rocked Russian sport. 

Rodchenkov’s forthcoming nature sends the documentary down a path it could have only once dreamed of, as the Russian physician provides an insight that almost defies belief into the levels and methods of state sponsored doping that took place in the country. 

The film hinges on Rodchenkov’s role, as he becomes a whistleblower and unearths enough secrets to lead to him fearing for his life. Despite an admittance of his regretful actions in aiding state sponsored doping in Russia, Rodchenkov’s charisma and portrayal lead to him becoming a figure that’s impossible not to empathise with. 

Having premiered at Sundance, the two-hour feature was acquired by Netflix for no less than $5 million and went on to win the Oscar for best documentary in 2017. 

Sporting Narratives: How Icarus shone a light on state-sponsored doping in Russia