The extraterrestrials at the Olympics have been amazing. We are smitten with wonder, admiration and respect for the beyond-belief levels of sustained brutal training, laser focus and genius-level skills exhibited by those who rose to Olympian heights, let alone scaled the summits-called podiums. And then there are people like Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and other Superpersons, who no way could have been born on this planet. Somethings going on here, and I hope Donald Trump will soon be asking pointed questions, raising suspicions about these Promethean heroes and heroines who infiltrated themselves amongst us mere mortals.
Speaking of Michael Phelps, let me raise a question: “What’s with those circular bruises?” A little investigating reveals that “Michael The Great” might suffer from some credulity concerning New Age, alternative/integrative/traditional Chinese medicine BS.
Cupping is a fad involving “the flow of one’s vital life force via the suction of heated glass bowls applied to the skin.” Holy hocus pocus. How come American or other Olympic officials indulged athletes flaunting their cups on prime time world TV? Such appearances were free ads for pseudoscience. The exposure of cupping marks on winners bestowed an air of legitimacy on baseless and potentially harmful treatments-all of it beamed into the consciousness of impressionable children and gullible adults. C’est dommage.
As for cupping, this silliness has no medical or scientific basis-and it can be quite dangerous, often leading to burns and infections.
Did you observe the indicators of woo woo testimonials during interviews? No, I’m not referring to the many signs of the cross before or after races (is that a good luck charm or a request for assistance from a deity?). I’m referring to interviewees who claimed, “I am so blessed” (as opposed to their rivals who did not get blessed?), the fingers in the air pointing to a god in the sky watching the event or other indications that some athletes rely upon and believe in homeopathy, acupuncture, kinesiology tape and yes, cupping.
What ever happened to the rabbit’s foot?
Basically, cupping entails having someone stick heated suction cups or glass bulbs on your skin. Olympians said they cupped to ease soreness in order to swim or run faster, jump higher, stay cooler, align their chakras and qi, and/or do whatever they wanted cupping to do for them. But, of course, they had to believe, that is, have faith, just like in religion.
In addition to the ancient Chinese, it seems some North American Indians engaged in cupping, as did Egyptians more than a thousand years before we got to AD 1. It was part of bloodletting at one time, which might now be seen as another form of alternative medicine that might make a comeback one of these days, if a movie star, celebrity or a Dr. Oz or Deepak recommends it.
In recent days since Phelps was shown before the 400 IM with cup marks on his upper body, images have popped up on the internet showing victims of cupping gone bad. It can be dangerous to allow a quack to suck “poisons” or “toxins” from your body. Medical doctors consider some cupping marks as second or even third-degree burns. Such wounds can become infected and possibly septic.
Consider what a renowned physician named David Gorski wrote on “The Science Blog” on July 1, 2016:
Cupping is nothing more than an ancient medical practice based on a prescientific understanding of the body and disease, much like bloodletting and treatments based on the ‘Four Humors.’ it’s all risk for no benefit. It has no place in modern medicine, or at least shouldn’t. After all, we don’t still believe in the four humors that Hippocrates and ancient ‘Western’ medicine invoked for many hundreds of years. TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) is based on much the same concepts, just with different names, substituting, for example, the ‘Five Elements’ for the ‘Four Humors’ and attributing disease to imbalances in them, just as ancient Western physicians attributed disease to imbalances in the ‘Four Humors.’ Yet ‘integrative medicine’ rejects one and embraces the other when it should be rejecting them both.
All Hail the Olympians, Anyway
Cupping and other superstitions aside, there is nothing but wonder and appreciation in my view for the magnificent performances shown by nearly all competitors (Hope Solo? Maybe not so much). Olympians are indeed amazing, even more so if not extraterrestrials, after all.
Maybe those who inadvertently promoted medical silliness will use their platforms in the future to promote evidence-based medicine, scientific acumen and skeptical inquiry, and maybe even REAL wellness, in the years to come.
Be well, enjoy the quest and die healthy, but not until you’re good and ready.