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Russian State TV: By Using Cupping Therapy, Michael Phelps Basically Doped

Russian state television compared doping with performance enhancing drugs to using cupping treatments.

USA's Michael Phelps competes in the Men's 200m Butterfly Semifinal during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 8, 2016.   / AFP / Odd Andersen        (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
USA's Michael Phelps competes in the Men's 200m Butterfly Semifinal during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 8, 2016. / AFP / Odd Andersen (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

American Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps may have passed a doping test, but he still eases his sore muscles with cupping therapy — a vacuum massage technique that improves athletes’ blood flow. And according to Russian state television, that’s basically the same thing as using performance enhancing drugs.  

Phelps “in many respects owes his achievements to vacuum massage, which is how this therapy is described scientifically,” state TV network Rossiya-24 broadcast in a special program on Tuesday.

Phelps, who won a gold medal in the Rio Olympics this week, drew attention to his use of the “cupping” technique when he competed with purple, circular abrasions on his shoulders and back. The muscle relaxing routine is used to help athletes recover more quickly from strenuous exercise, and Rossiya-24 claimed in its program that it is therefore comparable to meldonium, the doping drug that got some Russians banned from this year’s competition.

The Kremlin has been furious that certain athletes, including the country’s entire track and field team, were banned from competing in the international games, with President Vladimir Putin calling it “blatant discrimination” that had “gone beyond legal boundaries as well as beyond the point of common sense.”

Although Russia’s swimmers were ultimately allowed to compete in the 4×100 meter relay against Phelps, they placed fourth while the American superstar took home gold.

And when Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova competed in the women’s 100m breaststroke race against American swimmer Lilly King, she was greeted with boos. The 24-year-old was banned for 16 months in 2013 after she tested positive for traces of doping drugs, and was allowed to compete after an appeal. She ultimately placed second next to King, who broke the Olympic world record and mocked her competitor for using performance enhancing drugs.

“If that’s what she feels she needs to be able to compete, whatever, that’s her deal,” King told reporters ahead of her Monday night win. “I’m here to compete clean for the U.S. and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Photo credit: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

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