Bryan Fogel set out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, namely to prove how easy it was to pass a drug test. But when the amateur cyclist and filmmaker met Russian scientist Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, his personal experiment turning into something much different—he unearthed the biggest scandal in sports history.
The director and star of the documentary Icarus went in-studio for the latest episode of The Jim Rome Podcast, and shared his incredible story of meeting Rodchenkov, the head of Russia’s anti-doping efforts, who secretly orchestrated a state-run doping program that helped the Russians dominate not just the Sochi Olympics, but also spend four decades out-smarting drug-testing programs.
Fogel shared a riveting story about the 1984 Olympics, shedding new light on why the Russians didn’t participate in those games.
“Russia boycotted the Olympic Games, right? We as Americans and the rest of the world, we believed that they were boycotting those games because Ronald Reagan,” Fogel said. “But the real reason why they boycotted those game had nothing to do with US-Russia relations.”
Fogel recounted a story told to him by Rodchenkov from the 1980s. Rodchenkov, who visited America before the 1984 Olympics, realized drug-testing pioneer Don Catlin was ready to crack down on drug-cheats.
“In the movie, you will see this little part of the history. Of Grigory, he goes and visits Don Catlin in his laboratory, essentially to learn from Don Catlin, how drug testing works. This was actually in late 1983 and Grigory was essentially a spy being sent over by the Russians, to spy on Don Catlin.
“So Grigory, after studying with Don Catlin, realizes the Russians are going to be caught. That Russia do not have the anti-venom to the American test, and that all the Russian athletes who are all on steroids are going to be caught.”
It was at that point that the Russians launched a plan to circumvent the testing procedures, something they mastered for the Sochi games, according to records that Rodchenkov provided to the New York Times, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee. But at the height of the Cold War, the Russians pulled out of the Olympic games rather than risk being caught cheating.
“Russia knew that every single one of their athletes were going to be caught for doping, because the steroid wash-out period was like six or seven months,” Fogel said. “They did not boycott the Olympics because of US-Russia relations. They boycotted the Olympics because Russia wanted to come to those Olympics and dominate America, to show itself as a force over America. Showcase that communism and Russian power.
“But their athletes were doped to the gills. They were all going too be caught and when they realized this was going to be a disaster for Russia, they boycotted the Olympics. This story goes way back in time, but over this next 30 years, they keep developing a methodology of how to game the system.”