This is a post by my improbable dear friend Don Ardell. I say improbable because Don is, among other things, a seventy-something year old world champion triathlete and duathlete, while I on the other hand can barely drag my ass to the gym a few measly times a week, muttering and groaning and complaining bitterly before, during and after every single fucking workout. He is also a pioneer in wellness (no, not the fun kind at the day spa—the REAL deal) and author/co-author of several books on the subject, the latest of which (with Grant Donovan) is Wellness Orgasms: The Fun Way to Live Well and Die Healthy.
Don also has a fantastic sense of humor: one day he asked me to be on the advisory board of his newsletter publication, the Ardell Wellness Report. Hahaha! I almost choked on my chocolate marshmallow vodka breakfast smoothie! But then I remembered a deeply moving and powerful quote by the author Carroll Bryant: “Everyone in life has a purpose, even if it’s to serve as a bad example.” And so I told Don I would be honored and happy to serve.
As long as I could do it from a superluxe day spa that offers full bar service to the massage rooms. OBVIOUSLY.
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. Something is 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 talented but still 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 invest too much credulity in 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 inadvertent 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 at the Games? 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 outside 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 deity in the sky (influencing events, doing favors?), other indications that competitors give credence to 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 the 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, if a movie star or Dr. Oz or Deepak recommend it.
You can find gruesome photos of what cupping might do for you if you allow a quack to suck poisons or toxins from your body by cupping you. Medical doctors consider some of the marks on a 60 year-old Chinese man in a well-publicized case to be third-degree burns. Such wounds usually become infected and possibly septic.
Consider what physician skeptic/debunker 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.
May you be well, choose wisely, enjoy the quest and die healthy, but not until you’re good and ready.