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Why are so many Rio Olympic athletes covered in spots?

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Michael Phelps looks like he fought an octopus. Alex Naddour, too, showed up for gymnastics spotted red:

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Those uncanny blood-colored circles are the result of cupping. Cupping, explained by NBC New York, is:

Basically, cupping involves a cup attached to a pump. Athletes put the cup on their skin and create suction with the pump. Some say the technique increases blood flow and helps a person's sore muscles heal.

Cupping is ancient in origin and sometimes involves fire for a pump. One might use cups made of clay or metal or bamboo, but Olympians -- all kinds of athletes -- use cups like these:

This kinda Saturday morning. Cupping is a great recovery tool #cannotwalk#everydayislegday

A photo posted by Pavel Sankovich (@pavelsankovich) on

And I dunno if you've ever put a suction cup on your skin in an attempt to hang a towel on your own belly, but it gives you a nice hickey. Cover yourself in big cups connected to tubes connected to pumps and you end up looking like Natalie Coughlin did:

Gee, I hope my #GoldenGoggles dress is open-backed.

A photo posted by Natalie Coughlin (@nataliecoughlin) on

Some thoughts about cupping:

- Using cups, athletes from Japan, Bangladesh, Laos and Niger could make easy flag designs on their bodies.

- Someone could do the Olympic rings on their back?

- Cupping in Portuguese is sangria.

Cupping seems like a good idea if you need some blood flow in your sore, athletic muscles, or if you want to look like you caught a rash from an alien. That's why so many Olympic champions are spotted.