With the 2012 Olympics only a couple months away, you can expect many stories discussing the illegal use of medications to enhance performance. One common medication that has received scrutiny is the IBA inhaler (beta-2 agonists). Oddly, a 2011 study showed that athletes with asthma have out performed those without the condition (since 2000). Additionally, in Great Britain there has been an increase in the number of elite athletes with asthma.
The British Medical Journal reported that about 21% of their 2004 Olympic team had asthma compared to 8% of the British general population. The BMJ article also reported that there is a huge concern that athletes with asthma are being treated with the wrong asthma medication, most of them have exercise-induced asthma which is different than full-blown asthma.
This array of findings from various studies raises a couple questions for me:
Are athletes with asthma receiving a boost in their performance due to their IBA inhaler and, Are they being properly diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma as a kid. I even got out of gym class for it even though I was a devoted martial arts competitor (not really sure what my doctor was trying to accomplish). Looking back, I think I was not properly diagnosed. I had no real problem while training or competeing. I can not remember how my inhaler made me feel. I do recall my 'asthma' always happened in the winter when I also had (what I know now is called) bronchial cough. These reports make me concerned that kids who have experienced some form of lung (respiratory) distress while exercising are not being looked at closely enough by physicians to determine what type of asthma they may have and that others might be overlooked altogether.
I was surprised to read that 1/3 of college athletes have exercise induced asthma according to Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center. OSU research team screened 107 varsity athletes for exercise-induced asthma and 39% percent of the athletes tested positive for exercise -induced asthma. This number seems overwhelming to me. However, they also point out that athletes with asthma are much better at managing their condition than non athletes.