Icarus earned Best Documentary Feature at the 2018 Academy Awards.

For the second straight year, the Academy Award for best documentary feature has gone to a film with significant ties to the sports world. Last year, it was ESPN’s special 30 for 30 entry of OJ: Made In America (a five-part “movie” that was the longest film ever to win an Oscar, and one where they changed the rules after its win to ban such multi-part documentaries in the future). This year, it’s Netflix’s Icarus.

The victory for Icarus, Bryan Fogel’s film that starts with the director exploring doping to win a cycling race and eventually connecting with Russian scientist Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov to expose that country’s massive state-sponsored doping movement, is perhaps especially notable considering the timing.

It’s a remarkable time for Icarus, considering the recent controversy around Russia and doping at the Olympics, which led to the IOC “banning” Russia from Feburary’s PyeongChang Games, but allowing Russian athletes to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” then reinstating the country in time for the closing ceremonies. It’s also notable considering the ongoing libel lawsuit against Rodchenkov filed by several Russian biathletes in a New York court and funded by Brooklyn Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokohorov (who has previously been accused of ties to the doping scandal), which has a lot to do with claims Rodchenkov made in the film as well as in other outlets.

And Rodchenkov is in hiding in the U.S. right now, afraid of Russian government retribution. There have even been suggestions from Rodchenkov’s lawyer Jim Walden that the lawsuit is “raising the specter that the Kremlin itself might be acting through proxies here” and that it might be an attempt “to find him through judicial means.”

While the Oscar nod for Icarus is unlikely to have any direct impact on that case, it certainly may draw more public attention to what’s going on with the lawsuit against Rodchenkov. As Zack Smith noted on Twitter, there are perhaps even sequel possibilities here:

It’s also interesting that Fogel dedicated the award to Rodchenkov:

And this led to some interesting backstage commentary from Fogel (seen at right above) on the IOC and president Thomas Bach:


Beyond that, many had thoughts on what this means for the documentary, for Russia, and for world anti-doping efforts:

And hey, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel had quite the post-award comment:

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.