There were plenty of surprises during the 90th annual Academy Awards on Sunday March 4, 2018.
If you haven’t seen the acclaimed flick, here are five things you need to know about Icarus.
1. It’s a Netflix Original documentary
Icarus is one of the few Oscar-winning movies you can screen on a lazy Sunday in bed. It’s also the first time a Netflix Original has taken home a statuette for best documentary feature.
2. It all began with Lance Armstrong
Bryan Fogel—Icarus filmmaker and recreational cyclist—began the documentary as an answer to Lance Armstrong’s scandalous career.
“Lance Armstrong had evaded 500 anti-doping controls clean,” Fogel told Seth Meyers in an interview on Late Night in summer 2017. “So I’m going, ‘Wait, what is wrong with the system?’ Not, ‘What is wrong with Lance?’”
But at the end of this documentary, Armstrong’s misdoings are overshadowed by more nefarious revelations. Fogel more or less trips into one of the biggest sport scandals the world has ever seen.
Let us explain…
3. Bryan Fogel struck filmmaker gold—on accident
Fogel’s initial plan was to prove how easy it is to get away with doping by competing in a prestigious amateur race he’d done the year before—only now tackle it chemically enhanced. He wanted to be a true muckraker by cruising through the competition (and his best time) and pass the urine tests all on film, The Guardian summarizes.
Naturally Fogel needed some experts to show him the ropes. As if by fate, one introduced him to Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov, then-director of the Moscow Anti-Doping Centre. Sensing a propitious opportunity, Fogel asked Rodchenkov to help him cheat the system—dope and dodge detection—to which Rodchenkov eagerly agreed.
Rodchenkov snuck Fogel’s urine through an airport—something he later admits was a technique Russia used to keep its Olympic athletes “clean” at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014, The Guardian reports. Rodchenkov says he’d mix three banned steroids with liquor for Russian athletes. Later, he’d replace their urine with the untainted smuggled samples since he ran the lab that handled Olympic testing, The New York Times reports.
Shortly after, the World Anti-Doping Association exposed the extent of Russia’s doping—including Rodchenkov and Vladimir Putin’s involvement in it all. We won’t spoil all the juicy details (and surprises) for you, but as you can imagine this news had quite an influence on the 2018 Winter Olympics.
4. Yes, Icarus is responsible for the Olympic Russian Ban
Thanks largely in part to Fogel’s work, Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics. Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag in Pyeongchang last month—representing the Olympic Athletes from Russia in South Korea. This meant Russia was unable to earn a position on the podium and unable to add to its medal cache.
However just days after the PyeongChang Games ended, the International Olympic Committee lifted its ban on the Russian Olympic Committee even though the country is still non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency, Deadline reports.
5. Fogel’s Oscars acceptance speech was a call to action
“We dedicate this award to Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, our fearless whistleblower who now lives in grave danger,” Fogel said during his acceptance speech. “We hope Icarus is a wake-up call. Yes, about Russia—but more than that. The importance of telling the truth, now more than ever.”