In Praise of the MPCC

The Mouvement Pour Un Cyclisme Crédible or MPCC is sometimes the butt of jokes but what if we celebrated its achievements and laughed at those who try to mock the sport?

This group of teams has grown and led the way on anti-doping policies, often seeing the UCI copy the rules later on and taking a stance to safeguard rider health too.

The MPCC was founded during the 2007 Tour de France by seven teams wanting to create a tighter set of rules than the UCI or WADA Code when it came to anti-doping and ethics. It’s a voluntary, self-regulatory body. Members sign up and agree to stick to rules which go beyond the UCI’s standard. These include:

  • teams can’t hire riders who have been banned for six months or more for a two year period after their ban ends (effectively a four year ban)
  • resting riders with low cortisol levels indicative of cortisone doping (or approved cortisone use by a Therpeutic Use Exemption) or a health problem, perhaps a disease or a concern with the adrenal glands so it’s good to stop and rest
  • suspending the team from racing following a series of positive doping cases

There have been other initiatives like the “no needles” policy which looked eccentric but today the UCI has adopted it, banning any injected vitamins or drip-infused recovery products. In the short term it helps avoid the embarrassment of raids on teams revealing seized syringes (hold the front page!) even if these later turn out to contain Vitamin B (page 97) but longer term the message is clear, that nobody needs to inject medicine or vitamins to compete.

The genesis of the MPCC suggested a problem, teams had to agree higher standards than the WADA/UCI rules in order to show their faith in cleaner sport.

The problem of late has been the rush of teams to join in the hope they can get a slice of the supposed credibility. But any reputational gain is only as good as the collective efforts of the members. Signing-up is easy, the test comes when a crisis hits. Lampre-Merida passed one test when they stopped Chris Horner from riding the Vuelta last year because of his cortisol levels; this doesn’t mean the team is saintly but it does show it can make tough choices. Which brings us to Astana team boss Alexandr Vinokourov who seems to miss the point of the MPCC in this quote from Cycling Weekly when bemoaning some teams aren’t present:

Teams like BMC and Team Sky talk about doping but they refuse to join the MPCC. How harmful is that for the image of cycling?

Let’s not chuckle too much at this cherry-picked quote but there is the obvious point that cycling is damaged by scandals rather than the failure of some teams to join a self-regulatory association. Vino is right, it would be good if Sky and BMC Racing joined the MPCC to ensure a more level system especially when it came to the use of cortisone; or if they don’t want to join, why not adopt the MPCC rules on cortisol and rest?

Toothless Tiger?
The MPCC’s taken a hit over the Astana scandals and the way the team seemed to engineer the timing of announcements to ensure it could race in particular events like the home Tour of Almaty before assuming a self-suspension. The trouble here is proving Astana did anything wrong: sure the timing looked very cynical but a group based on regulations has to follow rules rather than appearances and short of incriminating emails or else, there’s little to be done. Besides if a team is gaming the institutions it relies on help bolster credibility then the joke is on the team.

Abolish the MPCC
Ideally the MPCC should be abolished, but for positive reasons because the UCI has adopted all their rules: “mission accomplished”. The UCI has imported MPCC ideas already, we’ve mentioned no-needles above but the new anti-doping rules for 2015 sees the UCI imposing suspensions on teams for multiple doping cases. Where the MPCC goes, the UCI follows.

If it didn’t exist we might have to invent it but now it exists we want it abolished. The MPCC needed to be invented to bring in stricter and healthier rules. Now these rules exist surely the UCI should adopt them and effectively put the MPCC out of business.

Until then it’s easy to mock the MPCC as powerless, a cloaking device exploited by dodgy teams but better it exists than not. If you have an issue with teams or individuals trying to borrow any credibility held by the MPCC and its members then your problem is really with those trying to exploit and their lack of credibility as opposed to those who’ve worked to improve the standards. Already the MPCC has got the UCI to change and improve several rules and hopefully one day the MPCC will stop with the UCI adopting the same standards.

28 thoughts on “In Praise of the MPCC”

  1. You bring up some good points but it’s hard to get over some of the MPCC member teams seeming to be dancing around their own regulations – kind of gaming their own system while holding themselves up as credible and denouncing those who aren’t playing their game. Same with the UCI’s adoption of these regulations. We got hastily written permission for asthma inhalers that danced around the rules, so it’s a challenge for me to see MPCC and UCI as doing more than scandal-management instead of changing the culture of the sport.

  2. Ha ha ha…

    Or maybe, the UCI, following through with two of Cookson’s campaign promises (transparency and independent doping control), should give all doping related rule making, testing and penalty implementation to MPCC?

  3. Have the teams not in the MPCC made convincing arguments why not?

    It seems almost all of the biggest teams are not members: Sky, BMC, Tinkov, Quick-Step, Movistar, and Trek .

    As you note in the article the MPCC have done good things and would appear a no brainer to join (until the UCI catch up and make the whole thing unnecessary).

    • Sky, BMC, Tinkov, Quickstep, and Trek are all in VELON but not in MPCC.

      Jumbo, Cannondale/Garmin, Giant Alpecin, Lotto Soudal, Lampre, Orica are in both.


      • I just read an article about VELON and apparently it only operates under UCI and WADA anti-doping rules. With some teams member teams being part of MPCC and some not.

  4. I’m no fan of Brailsford, but I’ll just pass on that he has communicated his reasons in some shape or form last year, and the one I remember most clearly is the MPCC don’t buy into the zero tolerance stand when it comes to recruitment of riders and staff (especially given most of the MPCC teams are run by people with doping-related pasts).

    Haven’t seen owt from anyone else

  5. Just to add a different viewpoint, this from Philip Gomes

    For my part, I dont particularly subscribe to an organisation led by Legeay who takes the position that he’d rather back up Vino to the hilt irrespective of the way Vino took the absolute mickey over Tour of Almaty, than lose a member of his precious organisation.

    I think it started with good intentions, and did some very good stuff. But’s used cynically by certain teams, all with Legeay’s blessing.

    • I think Legeay’s either been naive or just powerless to act, short of having incriminating emails it’s hard to eject them because the team could turn around and say “where’s your proof”. For a group that exists to uphold rules they can’t start ejecting teams just because they don’t like them.

      But even if they got played over this, for me it still doesn’t undo all the other good initiatives.

      • And therein lies the problem. They are so insistent on their rules and membership in an effort to occupy the moral high ground that it undermines their other efforts. (Since when did movements have rules and members? They should just have contributers)

        If they just set themselves as a lobby group supporting the interests of clean riders they would be far more worthwhile. Pushing for rule changes, holding the UCI to account for the amount of testing they do, providing a conduit for whistleblowers etc.

        And talking of riders – why do they not have any representation? Managers, doctors, sponsors, race organisers, agents are all their. Riders are excluded from having an input. It’s like a union run by management.

        And at the momeent it is creating a Bush-esque ‘with us or against us’ vibe for anti-doping. As though their’s is the only valid path.

        The MPCC could be useful, but they are getting it all wrong. They are set up more along the lines of an organised religion than a movement.

      • Optimistic to expect any team to take a Corinthian stance on punishments, the time window for accepting/challenging a positive A sample is not of MPCC’s making. The question as to why some teams do not follow MPCC’s lead still remains, but on balance they have a better record on not testing positive? Maybe they could have some procedure to eject teams, two members to propose and a 2/3 majority, otherwise if Astana or anyone else sticks to the letter of the rules they are entitled to remain a member.

      • I’m not sure an ethical organisation needs to be entirely rules driven- surely ethics is about applying principles rather than rules. What if a member team can be ejected if it brings the organisation into disrepute, as Astana seemed to? So long as a fair process is followed, it should be enough to make a membership decision based on the balance of probabilities, or even “reasonable suspicion”. This would have allowed/forced the MPCC to ask itself last year if it wanted Astana to continue as a member, rather than require/hide behind a lack of evidence.

  6. ….and there you have the limitations of a self-regulating group. Relies upon everyone playing by self-made rules, and with no consequences if they dont

  7. The MPCC’s first rule is:
    “Provisionally suspend, since the communication of the first sample, a rider who tested positive”

    If Lampre was really attempting to follow MPCC’s rules then why did they race Diego Ulissi in the Coppa Bernocchi last year after his positive test?

  8. MPCC seems to have started out as a crusade for reformed riding, rules, testing, etc.

    But when six of the biggest and most well funded teams refuse to take part, it smells of skunk in the cabbage patch. Don’t know what the points of difference or aversions are, but, there certainly seems to be a power play afoot between the the smaller less well funded teams in the MPCC and the big boys who want to play by and make their own rules.

    Seems to me, that cycling, like many other sports needs to appoint a commissioner with czar-like powers to mange the sport. Perhaps someone or organization with a big stick can step up and clean up the current state of hypocrisy that exists within this wonderful sport.

  9. Love the Vino quote. Don’t forget it wasn’t just the bending of the MPCC rules by Astana to time their ban to perfection, it was also only two years ago they tried to blatantly disregard the MPCC rules by signing Pellizotti after his return from a ban only to have to rescind the signing due to MPCC pressure if my memory serves me correctly.
    Also, SKY have a very clear doping policy, and have been very open about the policy (yes, they have failed in areas but that is not a reason to denounce the policy and approach) which is stronger than both the UCI and MPCC so why would they want to operate to two policies (their own and MPCC) and create potential confusion within the team?

  10. Does the MPCC not have a crucial ongoing role of letting teams, as a collective, take leadership of the anti-doping movement?

    The UCI can show leadership but this can be much better facilitated when the teams are taking the lead for themselves. With needle bans, regular blood testing, etc, anti-doping could, arguably, now be considered to be the stricter in the Pro-Tour than anywhere else in sport – that is not a bad thing.

    MPCC’s criticism of Vini-Fantini for providing no explanations for its problems was a noteworthy example of the self-regulation process in effect. Surely, its the adverse publicity that hurts the teams most (in the form of sponsor fallout) if they are fined fined or banned, so the adverse publicity of being publicly criticised by the fellow teams’ anti-doping cooperative association (the MPCC) holds a lot of weight?

    • so…Vini-Fantini, now Southeast (following the unsurprising trend of constantly changing their name)…what’s the MPCC chucking them out done for their Giro wildcard? No impact whatsoever. And really that’s all that matters to that team. Their name has been in the dumpster for years, but they still get that all-important Giro wildcard. MPCC criticism = no impact at all.

  11. All valid observations.

    I view it like a high school dance, when a “rule benders” team (Astana) seems to be out of step and awkward in the dance as the music playing is the MPCC rules. Those like us observing and critiquing using the MPCC standard see the incongruent state that team appears to be in.

    Those knowledgeable of the rules get a bit of a chuckle, yet the dancer feels no consequence, as they chose the music.

  12. The teams affiliated to the MPCC supposedly have priority in receiving wild cards for the biggest races yet the only PCT team that is not a member of MPCC (CCC Sprandi) received the only wild card for non-Italian team for the Giro (and many others including San Remo, Catalunya etc.)

  13. When a positive pops up these days, it seems to be from an MPCC team.

    Groucho Marx may as well be Vino, telling the MPCC…

    “Please accept my resignation. I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

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