Japanese sprinter raises eyebrows with tiny patches on her stomach

First it was "the cups."

Now, it's "the spots." Or "the dots." Or "the patches."

When American swimmer Michael Phelps took off his coat before a swim at the Rio Olympics to reveal big, tennis ball sized blotches on his body, those on planet earth who hadn't been familiarized with the cups treatment kinda freaked out. I mean, what in the hell was going on there? Looked like Phelps (and some other athletes at these games) were being used by Andy Murray as targets for his practice session serves. After the world's greatest swimmer showed up with all those polka dots, though, he uninitiated quickly became aware.

Now, we're learning more about something called EK-6000 tape, which has appeared on the midriff of Japanese sprinter Chisato Fukushima. Spectators wondered what it was when she competed at the Japanese National Championships back in June. There she was, dotted with what looked like, to many, to be nicotine patches. She's competed at the Rio Olympics with the same dots on her stomach, as you can see from the photo above.

They aren't nicotine patches. I don't know too many sprinters who are trying to quit smoking, do you? What they are, apparently, are little plaster patches, specifically designed to enhance acupuncture treatments. The manufacturer claims (according to news outlet The Asahi Shimbun) that they contain eight minerals "which help draw out the natural healing ability of the body by placing them on the acupuncture points based on Oriental medicine.”

Fukushima likes it. “It feels good," she told The Asahi Shimbun. "It feels like I am soaking in a hot spring, and I can feel the range of motion in the joints of my body expand.”

Others aren't sold on the effectiveness of the patches. A rhythmic gymnastics coach, Mariko Date, says she isn't so sure that the plasters do anything and that it might be a case of believing in them providing a benefit, as opposed to one really being provided. “Those who believe shall be saved,” she said.

For what it's worth, Fukushima finished eighth and last in her 200 metres heat on Monday, 38th overall.

Whether they work or not, the spots look a whole lot more easy to take than the cups. After all, they're just little adhesive patches that you stick on your body (albeit after acupuncture, which is not everyone's preferred method of pain relief).

The cups, on the other hand, do not look fun at all. Check this video at Yahoo Sports and you'll see how it's done. It may not, in fact, be painful but it sure made me queasy watching the process.

NOTE: Yahoo Canada Sports managing editor Steve McAllister underwent "the cups" procedure this past weekend. Care to let us know how it felt, Steve?

His answer:

"Like most high-performance athletes (of which I've never been and thinking the chances of becoming one are now pretty slim. . . .), the first 24 hours you feel like you've been run over by Usain Bolt (keeping in the Olympic spirit here). Then you start to feel human again, even though your back still looks like a pepperoni pizza. I can't wait to hear what the boys have to say at the beer league hockey game this week."

Sounds totally worth it... I guess.... We'll refrain from final judgement until Steve reports on his performance at shinny.

We've gotten used to seeing athletes with different kinds of tape on their bodies over the years.

Now, the Rio Olympics have introduced many to the mysteries of big round blotches and tiny abdomen patches.

Say, I wonder what would happen if you put EK-6000 patches on top of cups blotches....