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Is cupping the same as doping? What do you think?

In a follow up of the other day’s doping controversy between Olympic swimmers Lilly King from the U.S. and her Russian opponent Yulia Efimova, we want your opinion.

Russian state TV has now called out Olympic swimming superstar Michael Phelps for his cupping, calling it the same as using the anabolic steroid meldonium that has gotten 118 out of 389 Russian athletes banned from Rio. Efimova was also supposed to be banned for testing twice for meldonium until her ban was overturned at the last minute.

To say that Russia is not having a good experience at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio is undoubtedly an understatement. And the Paralympic games will be worse since all Russian athletes are banned from that competition.

So it appears that Russian television has taken up Valdimir Putin’s remark in April that “This substance [meldonium] was never considered as doping. It doesn’t influence the result. That’s totally certain. It just keeps the heart muscles in good condition under high load.”

But since their state-sponsored and run doping scandal at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi has now been proven, the television anchor has gone beyond saying the effects of cupping and meldonium are similar, instead intimating that Phelps and others using cupping are also doping and should be treated the same as the disqualified Russian athletes.

Tim Chester of Mashable quoted the anchor saying, “‘following the Hollywood trend, the method was adapted by athletes. According to them, vacuum-based massage improves circulation and overall well being, suggesting that muscle repair happens faster after physical exertion. In other words, the net effect from such practices in many ways, is not unlike those of meldonium,’ he adds, reminding viewers of the athletes who were disqualified or stripped of their medals after using the drug.”

So we ask you to weigh in. Is cupping the same as doping? We want to know what you think.

The round purple circles you’ve seen on Phelps’ body as well as gymnast Alex Naddour and other Team USA athletes is the result of cupping. Although considered an alternative medical treatment by the American Medical Association, the ancient Chinese healing technique increases blood flow to muscles through mild suction. When a cup (usually glass) is left in place over a sore muscle it creates suction between the cup and the skin, bringing blood from smaller vessels closer to the skin to the surface. In essence, it’s like getting a giant hickey.

As a recovery tool to treat sore muscles, there’s no hard scientific evidence that cupping produces any health or healing benefits other than an increased blood flow to the target area. Some medical personnel go so far as to say that any benefit an athlete “feels” from it is really just part of the “placebo effect.”

So cupping, in a brief and admittedly unscientific summary, is a device that’s externally applied to a sore muscle and works by suction. There is no drug taken by an athlete either internally or externally nor is there any hard scientific evidence that the procedure produces any salutary effect.

On the other hand, as mentioned above, meldonium is an anabolic steroid that’s manufactured in Latvia and distributed only in the Baltic countries and Russia. It’s used to treat a lack of blood flow to parts of the body, particularly in cases of angina or heart failure. But for athletes who take it, the increased blood flow can actually improve exercise capacity.

Meldonium has been around since 1970 but not well-known outside anti-doping organizations until Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova made it famous when she was banned from tennis for two years after testing positive for it at this year’s Australian Open. She claimed to have taken the drug for 10 years for medical purposes.

One of a dozen or so drugs that were monitored long-term by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the agency finally banned meldonium as a performance enhancing drug (PED) as of January 1, 2016. Any athletes with a legitimate medical need for a banned substance can apply for a therapeutic use exemption, however.

In another brief and admittedly unscientific summary, meldonium is a drug that is taken internally, an anabolic steroid that is used to build muscle and strength, lessen pain, reduce swelling and reduce overactive immune responses.

Now you decide.

A video posted by NBC Olympics (@nbcolympics) on

A photo posted by Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00) on

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