In the last few days a professional cyclist, Simon Yates from the Orica Greenedge Team, was censured for testing positive for Terbutaline. This is a medication contained in many asthma inhalers.
The incidence of professional cyclists using asthma inhalers seems to be on the rise and out of proportion to the normal population.
One popular theory is that asthma inhalers have a performance enhancing affect. I did a little research and there is a recent study that is relevant to the subject and has been widely quoted in recent times. Here is the link:
I’ll save you reading it if you like and jump to the chase – the bottom line appears to be that the medication tested (salbutamol) does not have performance enhancing effects.
Asthma medication usually works because the medications they contain have the effect of bronchodilation.
Many people believe that this effect will affect ones V02 Max. There is not good evidence of this currently – at least I couldn’t find any. It appears that ones rate of oxygen uptake is not improved by the effect of broncholdilation in healthy people. It seems that oxygen uptake, is within reason unaffected by the dilation of ones respiratory airways (making it bigger doesn’t help)
In terms of personal anecdote, I have exercise-enduced asthma (happens in cold weather) and have used inhalers of the type mentioned on numerous occasions (yes – I have a Therapeutic Use Exemption) I haven’t noted any performance enhancing effect at any time, and no data from my power backs up any hypothesis that it makes you faster.
I’m not suggesting that this is somehow a complete picture but if there are 2 reasonable conclusions at this stage:
1) If you use an asthma inhaler, make sure you have any appropriate exemptions approved if it is needed for your competition.
2) Using an inhaler in an otherwise healthy person doesn’t help your performance.