England’s Harry Kane, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and France’s Hugo Lloris are among those who have been seen doing this on the field. What purpose does rinsing their mouths serve?

IT HAS become a frequent sight on TV during the World Cup: a footballer takes swigs from a bottle and then spits out the fluid rather than swallow it. England’s Harry Kane, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and France’s Hugo Lloris are among those who have been seen doing this on the field. What purpose does rinsing their mouths serve? While some players may be simply refreshing themselves in the heat, others may be consciously using a technique called “carb rinsing” that can give them a performance boost, The New York Times suggests, quoting exercise and nutrition scientists. This presumes that the liquid being used was rich in carbohydrates. But why spit it out? While ingesting carbohydrates may improve performance, it can cause intestinal problems.

On the other hand, when athletes rinse their mouths with a carbohydrate solution, then spit it out without swallowing, receptors in the mouth send signals to the pleasure and reward centres of the brain, suggesting there is more energy on the way, so the muscles can push a little harder and there is no reason to feel so fatigued, the NYT explains. A report in The Guardian earlier this year cites several studies that have reported that, after rinsing, athletes lift more weight, run faster and farther, jump higher and are more focused.

The possible reason is that the brain gets fooled into thinking that the body has just been given more energy, The Guardian says, while the NYT report quotes exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist Asker Jeukendrup as saying: “You’re sort of tricking the brain a little bit; that’s what we think the mechanism is.” While it is not clear whether the fluids that World Cup players were spitting out was indeed carbohydrate solution, the NYT quoted “a person familiar with the team’s (England’s) regimen” as acknowledging that that carb rinsing was something the squad “has been seen to do in the past” and was considered a “fairly standard practice.” Incidentally, The Guardian also points out that the effect of rinsing is disputed — some studies have not found any effect.

Tip for Reading List: When Doyle turned Holmes

In December 1908, a rich 82-year-old Scotswoman, Marion Gilchrist, was found in her apartment in Glasgow with her head bashed in. Her help, Helen Lambie, told police that a gold brooch set with diamonds was gone. Police soon rounded on a 36-year-old immigrant German Jewish gambler, Oscar Slater, who was found to have recently pawned a brooch. Although this piece of jewellery was different from the one that belonged to the murdered woman, police pressed on with the case against Slater. Witnesses were manipulated, evidence suppressed and, in the spring of 1909, Slater was put on trial. The jury considered the case for an hour before he was convicted and sentenced to death. Public outrage led to a petition for commutation, and King Edward VII issued a decree of pardon that led Slater to escape the gallows and instead being incarcerated for life. Many years on, in 1925, he succeeded in sending out word to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the detective Sherlock Holmes, and a crusader for justice and fairness in the affairs of state and society. Doyle had been Slater’s sympathiser, and a public advocate of justice for him for over a dozen years.
How Doyle went about building the case for Slater is the story of Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer, published in end-June. In an article written for Publishers Weekly, the venerable American trade magazine for publishers, booksellers and literary agents, Margalit Fox, the book’s author and a journalist with The New York Times, wrote: “By combing through hundreds of pages of Conan Doyle’s published writings, unpublished correspondence, which I had the pleasure of seeing in archives throughout Britain, I was able to recreate his modus operandi in the Slater affair.”
Doyle knew his project would be to fight what would today be described as racial profiling. He “brought to the case”, Fox writes, “an investigative process that can truly be called Holmesian: isolating the authentically meaningful clues from the wash of evidentiary noise; homing in on telling negative evidence; and illuminating the slipshod reasoning, overt prejudices and outright fabrications of police and prosecutors”. In 1927, Doyle’s efforts secured Slater’s release from prison — and the following year, two decades after the murder, his conviction was overturned.

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