, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 95-102
Date: 09 Jan 2013

Do Inhaled B2-Agonists have an Ergogenic Potential in Non-Asthmatic Competitive Athletes?

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The prevalence of asthma is higher in elite athletes than in the general population. The risk of developing asthmatic symptoms is the highest in endurance athletes and swimmers. Astma seems particularly widespread in winter-sport athletes such as cross-country skiers. Asthmatic athletes commonly use inhaled β2-agonists to prevent and treat asthmatic symptoms. However, β2-agonists are prohibited according to the Prohibited List of the World Anti-Doping Agency. An exception can be made only for the substances forrnoterol, salbutamol, sahneterol and terbutaline by inhalation, as long as a therapeutic use exemption has been applied for and granted. In this context, the question arises of whether β2-agonists have ergogenic benefits justifying the prohibition of these substances

In 17 of 19 randomised placebo-controlled trials in non-asthmatic competitive athletes, performance-enhancing effects of the inhaled β2-agonists formoterol, salbutarnol, sahneterol and terbutaline could not be proved. This is particularly true for endurance performance, anaerobic power and strength performance. In three of four studies, even supratherapeutic doses of salbutarnol (800–1200μg) had no ergogenic effect. In contrast to inhaled β2-agonists, oral administration of salbutarnol seems to be able to improve the muscle strength and the endurance performance. There appears to be no justification to prohibit inhaled β2-agonists from the point of view of the ergogenic effects.