Mar 29 2013
(not verbatim, contains typos, and sometimes I go off-book)
What is the definition of credibility? In cycling, the term has largely become what you are not. I am not glibly big-ringing myself to the top of Hautacam. I am not suing the living daylights out of every journalist and assistant who dares suggest that I used performance enhancing drugs. I am not driving a car load of hormones and EPO across France for my sick mother-in-law.
I but I think it’s never a good idea to define yourself as a negative. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. I do not recall approving a shipment of Hawk missiles to Iran. I was careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack on America.
And thus it’s somewhat alarming to be barraged by a steady stream of what cyclists are not doing—even if, for the first time in recent memory, we have fairly solid reasons to believe they actually aren’t doing it. But more alarmingly, the one body in cycling that is focused on racing clean—instead of catching people who are racing dirty—isn’t doing a whole lot to convince the rest of the world of i’s own credibility. I am speaking, of course, about the MPCC.
It pains me, somewhat, to put this organization in my crosshairs. After all, they were anti-doping before anti-doping was cool—formed in 2007 when only two Tour de France winners had been unceremoniously stripped of their titles post-race and when Lance Armstrong had still felt bad because we didn’t believe in miracles.. And to judge from their website—the snappily-titled domain is MPCC.unblog.fr—we’re still back in mid aughts sometime.
Now get that having your own domain name can be tricky—so it’s completely fair to start your site a place like unblog or blogspot or tumblr.
But after a certain point—when you start to get a critical mass of membership, when you start soliciting donations, when you have a reasonable expectation that media sites might start using you as a resource—it’s time to step it up to a “real” website, free from anyone else’s branding. The first thing I think when I see the MPCC’s site is “these guys are a disorganized bunch of doofers”. it doesn’t help that the site is exclusively in French, but I’m going to get to that later.
Let’s start by going back to the earliest entries on this page, from 2007. Where you might expect to find some sort of founding charter, or statement of principle we instead have a list of teams—several of which have different names or longer exist, and a reference to a previous document—a never-enacted ethical charter discussed in 2005—which…I guess I’m supposed to spend another 20 minutes googling.
Scrolling up the page, I see a word doc press release and a bunch of organziational minutes articles requiring something called a “mot de passe”. Which…I mean, are you kidding me? Rasmussen has gotten in front of a camera and given down to the day details on his doping from at this exact moment in history, and yet you still can’t be bothered to let anyone else read your meeting minutes? If that doesn’t scream credibility, I don’t know what does.
So let’s check out the “about” page and—holy crap, some English!—nice! “Noticing that the decisions, relative to the ethics of their sport, and taken unanimously, by the”—ugh, look guys, I appreciate effort, but this isn’t how the language works. Subject, verb, object, repeat, it’s very simple. Lemme see if I can parse this down…”The Managers gathered to create a movement to operate any necessary means”. Yeah, I think you’re still going to have to workshop that.
But hey—you’ve got wristbands and a snappy slogan—”le Dopage ce suffit!”. That actually sounds pretty cool. And there are english ones to—”Doping that’s enough”. Look, as Inner Ring already pointed out that’s dangerously easy to suffix— Doping that’s enough…to win the Tour de France”. “Doping that’s enough…to make it as a professional cyclist”—but more concerningly, the idiom in English really carries a connotation that there is some acceptable limit to whatever it is that you’ve done enough of.
For example, if I were pouring milk on someone’s breakfast cereal, when I got to a certain point they’d say “that’s enough milk” and I’d stop pouring. But then next morning, if I began pouring milk on their cereal again, they wouldn’t be like “whoa, what are you doing!? I told you yesterday that was enough milk.” They’d sit there and watch me pour it until they had what they considered an acceptable level, and then they’d say “that’s enough”.
And while the phrase isn’t antiquated by any means, it does sound a bit like something the father character in a 1950s family sitcom would say to a rambunctious child, perhaps while smoking a pipe and taking the evening edition of the Post from his favorite easy chair. And haven’t we already gotten enough of that parochial bullshit from the UCI?
And it’s not just the website that’s the problem. Your Wikipedia page—that’s Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia that anyone can edit, hint, hint—is all of three sentences long. Jon Vaughters, one of your more actively involved managers recently couldn’t say much about your group other than it was kind of like “a religion”—not a particularly compelling statement to a fan base repeatedly burned by taking things on faith.
But the real problem here isn’t what your current internet presence says to the fanbase. It’s what it says to people who might otherwise be fans, but who are put off by the stream of cyclist-on-drugs stories they get from lazy media outlets. Or worse, what it says to lazy reporters from those lazy media outlets attempt to paint a balanced picture of the current state of affairs. And worst of all, it’s a readymade punchline for douchebag snark merchants like Deadspin.com.
So here’s what you gotta do, MPCC:
- Hire a real live Anglophone to translate your site. I respect that your organization was founded by French teams at a French race after a decade of French managers and riders had suffered the “peloton at two speeds.” But your sport is international, your mission is international, and your audience is international. Crisp, comprehensible English is the best way to reach as many of these people as possible.
- A mission statement. Talking points. An elevator pitch, something—anything but the “we agree with this previous thing that didn’t get approved” that currently serves as your group’s raison d’etre. “Le Dopage ça suffit” at least sounds like you have the political will and marketing ability to steer yourself in that direction, though as a monoglot, I can’t really say for certain.
- Protect your brand. MPCC is far too ambiguous to serve as a sole identifier, and already digital properties that should be yours are already pointing elsewhere. Crediblecycling.com, for example, points to a Facebook page with similar goals as your organization, but apparently no direct affiliation. if you’re going to be the central authority on the fact that clean bicycling racing is taking place, you can’t have have this sort off-message fragmentation—Wikipedia pages included.
And just to show that I really do believe in both the mission of your organization and the viability of my suggestions, I have purchased two domain names to advance the cause: crediblecycing.org and cyclismecredible.fr—which like most French things was far more expensive and almost certainly less useful.
These domains currently point to this rant page, but I will, upon adoptation of suggestions one and two above, be happy to apply them to your shiny new, useful website, or donate fully them to your organization to be used in any way you see fit. Just send me an email–firstname.lastname@example.org.