Cupping and Doping Alive Alive O

Cupping and Doping Alive
Alive O

(for Andrew)


Leonard Zwelling

         I was encouraged to write this one by son the younger. You
see, I get cupped every week, so can actually comment on the controversy
surrounding some of the Olympians and their large purple pocked shoulders.
There is really nothing all that dramatic to it.

         Air is heated under a glass bell jar with the circumference
of an Olympic medal and the jar is placed on a sore body spot using coconut oil
as an adherent and lubricant. Usually these glass cups are moved gingerly and
evoke a skin reaction that also tends to stimulate blood flow at the spot of
application and thus ease inflammatory pain from overuse or other injury. It is
an ancient Chinese technique (
and is often used in association with other forms of alternative medicine such
as massage therapy or acupuncture.

         Why do I use this therapy?

         First, I am old and an old runner at that. I have lots of
sore places particularly my shoulders (boxing and swimming) and lower back (old
running, new golf). When cupping was offered to me as a possible benefit, I
took the practitioner up on the offer and was pleased with the results.

do I advocate this for everyone with an ache or pain? No. Why? It hurts. A lot.
The suction grip is significant and the material mobilized from below (blood
and other stuff) comes to the surface with some degree of reluctance. Thus,
when the cups are moved along the skin, they can hurt. It’s a combination of a
little stinging, a little burning, and a little rubbing. This can add up to
some discomfort. Not intolerable, but not all that much fun either.

there is no proof that cupping is really any different from massage therapy
or a host of other physically manipulative ways to ease body pain like
chiropractic. Believe me, I have tried most of them and they all seem to work
on me, but I may be highly suggestible. Who knows?

is one of the various conventional and alternative ways I try to keep my
68-year old body moving. It seems to help me. If you want to try it, I have a
name. Write me at

on the other hand, definitely works. And it is a bad idea.

multiple major leaguers, bicyclists and assorted many athletes will attest, the
use of EPO and/or anabolic steroids ease recovery and build muscle. Muscle is strength
and speed and those two things can translate fourth place into first in the
blink of an eye.

are Russians that were not allowed to participate in the Rio Games because they
were caught cheating—doping and trying to cover it up. There are others caught
but allowed to participate and this is probably wrong. While the big show in
Rio dealt with these Russians on a case-by-case basis, the ParaOlympics had had
enough and banned the entire Russian team. Good for organizers of the Games
that follow the Games in Rio.

real question is whether or not an athlete who has been caught cheating ought
to be banned for life. I find myself torn on this as everyone can make mistakes
and many of these people are young kids trying desperately to win. On the other
hand, they surely know what they are doing as much as Barry Bonds’ head
continued to grow, so why give them a break? This is for others to decide—like
the athletes themselves. Several have spoken out against their competition who
they believe is cheating. I like the idea of allowing the athletes to police
themselves, but how do you keep sour grapes out of the GatorAde?

am tuning into the Olympics with reluctance this year. I really cannot be sure
if I am watching the best athletes from around the world or the best
pharmacologists. That’s a shame, but how can we know? There are clearly entire
nations determined to cheat the system and give their athletes a competitive
advantage through chemistry. All we can hope for is that the testing labs can
stay abreast of the latest out of the sports performance improvement labs of
the countries willing to cheat. I have my doubts personally, but surely hope
that the American winners have done their victory laps free of any banned
substances. Unfortunately, I have no reason to be sure of this.

is just a fad that may or may not actually provide relief for tired or inflamed
muscles. Until it is rigorously tested using modern, western scientific
methods, we simply do not know. We do know that it probably does not alter the
body’s chemistry and so cannot be considered a banned substance.

are and have no place in sports at any level. Not only do they weaken
connective tissue and abnormally bulk up muscle, they shrink sex organs and
pickle livers.

I said above, I hope I am watching the best athletes in the world, not the
results of the best chemical pharmacology. But really—who’s to know?

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