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Stranger Than Fiction

Oscar buzz is reaching its final crest of widespread media coverage after the event took place over the weekend. Perhaps the most intriguing of the films I had the privilege of viewing was the documentary of the year, Icarus. This film, which follows the life of an amateur biker attempting to beat international doping protocol, takes a turn for the dystopian as the former director of the Russian doping laboratory helps the biker toward overriding the system.

Photo Credit: Bobby Jones

While the main biker attempts to cheat the amateur world, the international world begins to close in on the wrongdoings of the Russian olympic teams which had systematically abused steroids. Grigory Rodchenkov, the scientist in question, is forced to escape Russia and take refuge with the biker who he helped cheat.

Rodchenkov watches in horror from the safety of the US as his colleagues all begin to die of mysterious circumstances. Some scientists that were in perfect health, as evaluated by Rodchenkov, started to die off from massive heart failure. Others simply vanished. Rodchenkov is currently in witness protection services as he turned over massive amounts of information to the Department of Justice as well as the New York Times.

The story of Rodchenkov is a rare one in the current narrative of Russia. Generally, when someone has done something to merit their execution at the hands of the state, they don’t make too far. For example, on March 5 former Russian spy Sergei Skripal who had been convicted of treason by the Russian government is in a British hospital, severely ill, after being exposed to an unknown substance. A woman sitting nearby him is in similar condition.

The fact of the matter is that Putin has shifted the trajectory of his regime toward legitimate authoritarianism. The resources of Russia are being syphoned back into Putin’s pockets. Some estimates put his wealth at approximately $70 billion; that’s about 22.5 times more money than Trump has. Civilians live in fear and awe of his power and the international theatre awaits his next move.

Yet, Americans only really seem to be concerned that Icarus got a trophy. Whoopy.

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