By Grant Chapman

With drug-cheating so rife, it's easy for the average fan to become cynical about the achievements of our sporting heroes - but not so for award-winning, whistle-blowing director Bryan Fogel.

His movie Icarus, released last month on Netflix, has helped expose the depth of doping within the Russian sports programme and raises worrying questions about the integrity of sport across the world.

Having been stung by flawed superstars like cyclist Lance Armstrong, sprinter Marion Jones and tennis ace Maria Sharapova, just to name a few who have been caught, how can anyone take sports seriously any more?


Despite what he's seen and heard, Fogel still finds a way.

"I think there is one takeaway from all this," the American told Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch. "All the drugs in the world were not going to make Lance Armstrong Lance Armstrong, had he not also had spectacular athletic abilities, spectacular devotion to the science ... he was an incredible world class athlete.

"In my own personal experiment, did [drugs] help ... yes. Did they help my recovery ... yes.

"But did it turn me into Lance Armstrong ... the answer is no. Would I have ever been Lance Armstrong without those other genetic gifts and the answer is no.

"As a spectator and a fan, there is a very easy tendency to just go 'you're a cheater, you're a doper', but one thing that doesn't get negated in all that ... is the spectacular, spectacular athletic ability and dedication that goes into this.

"What these guys are ultimately trying to do is figure out how to gain that extra one percent, that extra half a percent, because we, as a society, don't reward second place. It's only the gold that matters, it's only the winner that matters."

Fogel began his project trying to expose the doping system, by training for the tough Haute Route cycle race through the Swiss Alps and then returning a year later, after using performance-enhancing drugs.

Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia's anti-doping centre in Moscow, began as his accomplice, guiding him through the drugs programme and advising him how to beat the tests.

Eventually, it became clear that Rodchenkov was more than he seemed and when he was outed by a WADA report into Russia's state-sponsored doping efforts, Fogel suddenly had an entirely different story on his hands.

With Rodchenkov's continued assistance, "Icarus" shows the depth of deceit, not just in the Russian system, but also in world sport. Fogel points an accusing finger at the International Olympic Committee for not banning Russia from last year's Rio Olympics, despite the overwhelming evidence.

At the time, the IOC insisted it could not ban an entire team that included athletes who were innocent of drug-taking.

"Not every athlete was dirty, because over the years, they realised that certain sports didn't benefit from taking performance enhancing drugs, steroids ... sports that required super, super-fine motor skills," Fogel told Veitch.

"But in any sport where there was endurance involved or strength involved or an advantage to be had, they doped.

"To me, the argument of not banning all of the Russian team didn't hold weight, because in any sort of overall picture, it can't ever be about the individual - it has to be about what is for the best of society, in the best interests of an entire country or an entire sport.

"The point to me was that a country had engaged in this fraud for all of Olympic history, throughout all competitions by any means necessary. This was not about an individual athlete, this was about standing up as an organisation and saying that we are not going to tolerate this because of these values we are putting on every other athlete.

"To go against that and protecting the individual rather than the ideal was just clearly an outright business decision, rather than an ethical one."

Some sports did ban Russian participants at Rio and continue to do so - the IAAF allowed only a few track and field athletes to compete as neutrals at last month's world championships in London.

But Fogel obviously still fears for the integrity of future events, especially the Sochi Winter Olympics and FIFA World Cup, both scheduled for Russia next year.

Before fleeing the country, Rodchenkov was in direct communication with Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko on a regular basis.

"The orders from Mutko were that football was to be 'clean', meaning there were to be no positives of Russian athletes in football.

"According to Grigory, had this system not fallen down, Russia would have implemented the same kind of system that they did at Sochi at the World Cup."