Liam Morgan

Before travelling here to cover the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session, I made sure I sat down and watched Icarus, the explosive documentary on the Russian doping scandal.

The film, which outlines in heinous and harrowing detail the system Russia allegedly had in place in order to beat the drug testers to win medals, was released on streaming service Netflix on August 4.

By the time IOC President Thomas Bach conducted one of his trademark deflective press conferences following the Executive Board meeting here on Monday (September 11), 38 days had passed.

Assumptions can often be dangerous but in this case most would have thought their instinct would be correct and that during that time, Bach himself would have watched the documentary.

It was surprising, therefore, to hear that the man who governs the highest body in worldwide sport had not.

I accept that Bach is busy. He travels far and wide in his capacity as IOC President and is more often seen boarding a plane than walking through the door of his own home.

But surely he could have set aside the two hours and four minutes it takes to watch it. Surely, in his role at the helm of the organisation which takes charge of the largest sporting event on the planet, he would want to see the extent Russia went to corrupt it.

After all, this is the scandal that has rocked the credibility of sport and the Olympic Games to its very core.

Others in similar positions have done, including at least two high-ranking officials within the sporting world.

IOC President Thomas Bach admitted here this week that he had not watched Icarus ©Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach admitted here this week that he had not watched Icarus ©Getty Images

What is not surprising is that Bach was criticised for not watching the documentary. So he should be.

This, remember, is a man who called the accusations made in the McLaren Report "an unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport".

Despite making that statement and writing letters to Icarus producer and director Bryan Fogel and Grigory Rodchenkov - the mastermind of the doping programme who turned whistleblower - after the story broke in the New York Times insisting that they were taking their investigation very seriously and would do the right thing, the very same official cleared the way for over 280 Russians to compete at Rio 2016.

With this in mind, it is not a stretch to accuse Bach of "doublethink", one of the mantras in George Orwell’s ground-breaking book 1984, a favourite of Rodchenkov which forms the underlying theme of the superbly made documentary.

"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them," Orwell writes.

It is something both the IOC and Rodchenkov are guilty of.

The IOC believe in the Olympic values of fair play but regularly allow convicted cheaters to enter the Games. Rodchenkov worked in an anti-doping laboratory in Moscow while developing ways to subvert the very system he was supposed to protect.

Rodchenkov, who fled to the United States after the story broke, which is brilliantly documented in the film, admits this himself in the programme. "I am on both sides – I am doping and anti-doping," he says.

In a strange way, Bach should be praised for his own admittance that he had not watched it. Quite frankly, it would have been easy to tell a lie and say he had. Few would have disbelieved him.

The fact that he has chosen not to led to comparisons with his attitude towards Russia in the build-up to Rio 2016 and beyond; unwilling to accept what is in front of him and failing to do the right thing.

"There are different levels of fraud that are revealed in this film," Fogel said in an interview with The 42.

"Probably the most shocking thing to me - being so invested in this story - was how the IOC reacted and, in a way, participated in this spectacular fraud.

"I don’t know what message it sends to the rest of the world or any athlete who is trying to play by the rules or respect the Olympic values.

"That was utterly shocking to me – as big a fraud as what’s presented in the film, regarding what Russia participated in."

Fogel’s view is one which has been echoed by many in the recent months and years since the whole scandal exploded, and you need only look at one sequence of the film to understand some of the reasons why.

In one of the most memorable scenes of the documentary, the camera pans to the faces of the likes of WADA director general Olivier Niggli, Athletes’ Committee chairperson Beckie Scott and Montreal Doping Control Laboratory Christiane Ayotte when Fogel and Rodchenkov take them through what the latter saw, heard and did.

They simply cannot believe what they are told. Ayotte in particular looks ashen-faced, while Scott, who has has been one of the leading dissenting towards the IOC since this whole scandal began, has her mouth open in shock.

Scott is among many to have criticised the IOC for a perceived lack of concrete action regarding Russia and their response to the state-sponsored doping claims, both from within their organisation and outside of it.

This opposition has increased in the last few days and weeks amid allegations of a vote-buying scheme in the race for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which proved one of the dominant themes of this week’s Session, along with Russia.

It is only likely to strengthen when the IOC eventually announce the country has avoided a blanket ban from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which are veering ever closer by the day, as this grew increasingly certain during an update on the progress of two IOC Commissions who are looking into Russian doping.

At times, such as with Bach and Icarus, the vote-buying scheme and the will-they won’t they concerning Russia’s Pyeongchang participation, the IOC does not help itself.

Russia are likely to avoid a ban for Pyeongchang 2018 after reports were presented to the Session ©IOC
Russia are likely to avoid a ban for Pyeongchang 2018 after reports were presented to the Session ©IOC

According to reports, they were made aware of potential corruption in the 2016 bidding process and did nothing.

They have been given plenty of time to deal with the Russian problem but have so far done nothing, although it must be said this is largely because of the volume of work both Samuel Schmid and Denis Oswald have had to undertake.

Bach and the IOC are faced with tough decisions on an almost daily basis, there is no doubt about that.

But choosing whether or not to watch Icarus is not one of them.