BEVERLY HILLS – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that “Icarus,” the 2018 Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary Feature, had been stripped of its award and been issued a four-year ban from the Oscars ceremony after its writer and director Bryan Fogel tested positive for banned substances.
AMPAS President John Bailey confirmed the news in a press conference at the Academy Headquarters in Beverly Hills, California, late Wednesday morning.
“The Academy prides itself on a system that awards films based on achievements earned fairly by all of those competing,” Bailey announced from his prepared remarks. “In our routine testing of all participants in this year’s Oscars ceremony, it was discovered that Mr. Fogel had been under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs for the duration of the film’s production.”
Bailey added that while drug testing is routinely performed by the Academy, this was the first positive test for PEDs since Quvenzhané Wallis, the child star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” tested positive for androstenedione following the 2013 ceremony.
“Icarus,” a 2017 film that chronicled the events surrounding a global investigation into Russian state-sponsored doping, entered the 2018 ceremony as the clear favorite. With a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes and generally positive reaction from audiences, “Icarus” was as close to a sure thing as can be this awards season. Before the Academy Awards, the film won several trophies, including the Sundance Film Festival’s Orville Award. At the time of publication, the Sundance Institute declined to comment on whether or not “Icarus” would retain the award but issued a statement declaring their commitment to due process.
Despite the subject matter of the film, the news of Fogel’s test comes as a shock to many in the close-knit film community, as it is unclear whether or not any of those who were close to Fogel were aware of his use of the drugs prescribed to him by former Russian sports doctor Grigory Rodchenkov. Known mostly for his 2012 romantic comedy “Jewtopia,” Fogel was seen as one of the last people to ever be drawn into using performance-enhancing drugs. Yet, according to scattered reports, Fogel’s A sample came back positive for erythropoietin, testosterone, corticosteroids, and human growth hormone, all substances that appear on the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited Substances and Methods list.
In a year marred by scandals at all levels, the positive test comes at a precarious time for the film industry. Bailey announced that the Academy would begin exploring options for out of production drug testing for all filmmakers but refused to elaborate on any specific measures the Academy would take in that pursuit.
With the 2018 film season already in full swing, many in the industry fear that Fogel’s positive test could weaken already-lowered audience confidence in films entering wide release. Several unnamed studio executives commented off the record that they had doubts that Fogel would be far from the last to test positive, with one explicitly stating his concerns about drug use in the industry, even dating back to 1977’s “Pumping Iron.”
“People have known for a while that everyone is doing it,” one studio executive commented. “But unfortunately there’s too much financial incentive to cheat. Think about Christian Bale as Batman. Do you really think that’s the same guy from ‘Newsies?’ Fat chance. Jane Fonda? That woman is doped to the gills.”
We attempted to reach out to the “Icarus” team but were unable to secure a comment prior to publication. Fogel did, however, release a statement via his publicist maintaining his innocence and thanking his fans for their support at this time.