Olympic Endorsements of Pseudoscience – “cupping”

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Posted 15 August 2016

If you’ve been watching the Olympics, along with looking on in awe at the athletes’ almost superhuman feats, you might also be looking on in confusion at a lot of large, circular bruises adorning some of the athletes’ bodies. Those marks are from an alt-med practice known as “cupping,” in which the flow of ones’ vital life force is somehow corrected by means of the suction of heated glass bowls applied to the skin. Not only does this practice have no medical or scientific basis, but it can be quite dangerous, causing burns and infections.

In some of the coverage during the run-up to the games, some athletes have been extolling what they see as the benefits of other pseudoscientific treatments such as homeopathy, acupuncture, and the proud display of kinesiology tape.

These athletes have every right to pursue whatever treatments they see fit, but the Center for Inquiry expressed its concern this week that the perhaps inadvertent endorsement of these unscientific treatments by globally idolized athletes sent a harmful message by lending an air of legitimacy to baseless and potentially harmful treatments. In its statement, CEO Robyn Blumner noted, “People of all ages will understandably look to these athletes as paragons of health and fitness, and of course they will want to emulate them and mirror their behavior,” and she called upon all of those in a position to do so—commentators, journalists, Olympic officials, and athletes—to make it clear to the viewing public that these pseudoscientific treatments are not backed up by evidence and should never be used in lieu of real science-based medicine.

To read more about the problems with things like cupping, see this post from David Gorski from July, and get an overview of some of the other examples of Olympic pseudoscience from Kate Lunau at Motherboard. And special for CFI, Luis Alfonso Gámez explores the pseudoscience of cupping—in Spanish! Writes Gámez, “El ‘cupping’ es una de las pseudoterapias más estúpidas.”

Source: Center for Inquiry newsletter

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