Red Circles in Rio

Well, here we go with another installment in the long, proud tradition of athletes' superstitions.


What's that in the intersection of Quackery and Pseudoscience, just below Anti-vax?  Why, it's a particularly ugly specimen of magical thinking called, Cupping.  The Skeptic's Dictionary is way nicer about it than I am inclined to be.  Here is what I am inclined to say about it: Cupping is bullshit.

But in what is sure to be a Jenny McCarthy effect, the American Swim and Gymnastics teams (at least) in Rio are displaying marks of this practice, born in superstition and nurtured for the profit of the unscrupulous at the expense of the uneducated.  Our swimmers and gymnasts are far less qualified to be medical theorists than I am to take on their events.  At least I probably wouldn't drown.

Professor Edzard Ernst of the department of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter says that cupping could cause burns. "There is no evidence for its efficacy," according to Ernst. "It has not been submitted to clinical trials, but there have certainly been satisfied customers for 3,000 years."*

No clinical trials, no evidence, no safety standards.  No standards at all.  But a 16-year old swimmer will sell a lot of Wheaties, and sadly, she will also sell a lot of bullshit.  This run of it may have a lower death-toll than anti-vax, but that's small consolation.

SHAME on his trainer, and his coach.

America continues to be the runt of the litter when it comes to science literacy.  This sad example of our athletes just reinforces that fact.

Hers, too.

This article was updated on May 9, 2023

David F