Are you watching the Olympics? Probably not, judging from the ratings. Viewers have a right to be disenchanted, when there are over 330 Russian athletes competing in Tokyo, despite the Russian Olympic team supposedly being banned for its systemic doping program. For a definitive expose of Putin’s doping program, watch Bryan Fogel’s Icarus on Netflix. However, they did not invent steroid regimens. They just built on a long Communist-era tradition. It was a practice rife in most Warsaw Pact countries, including then Czechoslovakia. That is where Anna Moravcova trains for the 200m dash, but she rebels against her coaches when they demand she participate in their anabolic steroid program in Andrea Sedlackova’s Fair Play, which is now available on VOD.
If Moravcova were not naturally talented, there is no way she would be allowed to train on the national team. Her father immigrated during 1968. Her mother almost joined him, but she got cold feet. Irena Moravcova now deeply regrets that choice, even though her feelings towards Moravcova’s father remain ambiguous. She used to run in dissident circles, so when her old flame Marek Kriz asks for a favor copying his samizdat texts, she reluctantly agrees, despite the danger to her and her daughter.
Anna Moravcova’s track times are good, but the state athletic apparatus has selected her for its special treatment. They are vague whenever she asks about the Stromba they inject her with and the nondisclosure documents they force her to sign further stokes her suspicions. Nevertheless, she initially complies, because they leave her no choice. However, when her body has a toxic reaction to the steroids, she resolves to quit the doping program, even if the Party bans her from competition. Unfortunately, her mother’s precarious political position and her coaches’ manipulativeness complicate her decision.
This might be the all-time greatest Olympic movie, even though it includes no scenes from the actual Olympic Games. (In a bitter irony, Moravcova is training for the 1984 Games, so you should know what that means.) Nevertheless, the way Moravcova takes responsibility for her actions and her body—and comes to understand her mother on a much deeper level—is quite moving and arguably even inspiring.
Judit Bardos is convincing both physically and dramatically as Moravcova, the young athlete. It is quite compelling to see her confusion forge into resolution. Yet, it is Anna Geislerova who is truly haunting as Irena Moravcova. It is a shame she never received the Awards consideration she deserved. Together, they do an excellent job bringing to life the tension and affection of a mother-daughter relationship, which are always somewhat difficult, but theirs is under tremendous tension.