By Tom Knight
June 2. ATHLETES CLAIMING they are suffering from asthma are the target of new anti-doping rules which will be introduced later this year by the International Olympic Committee.
Under the new rules, which come into effect on September 1, athletes using particular asthma medicines at future Olympics – starting with next year's Winter Games at Salt Lake City – will need to submit clinical proof of their complaint and undergo random tests.
This latest clampdown is the result of work carried out
by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) who, after only a year in operation, have already been responsible for
far-reaching changes in the fight against drugs.
It was WADA, set up at the end of 1999, which ensured the necessary research was carried out in time for
blood tests to be introduced at the Olympic Games in
Now it has turned its attention to asthma, a
condition which has largely escaped the attentions of
agencies involved in the battle against doping.
(Swimming World published a major story on this issue two years ago.)
In a statement released yesterday WADA said the new
rules would apply to athletes using medications
containing beta 2 agonists, drugs used to treat asthma but which are classified as stimulants and anabolic agents.
The WADA statement continued: "These athletes will now
have to submit clinical proof to a medical review panel
and may be subject to on-the-spot tests to substantiate
their ailment and need for beta 2 agonists."
While stimulants are banned by the IOC, athletes
providing proof that they suffer from asthma will be allowed to take preparations containing the beta 2 agonists through inhalers. The suspicion is that many athletes who claim to be asthmatics are using inhalers under false pretences.
Earlier this year Prince Alexander de Merode, chairman
of the IOC's medical commission, said 70 to 80 per cent of the athletes at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer declared themselves as asthmatic and needing to take medicine that contained steroids.
"In Sydney seven per cent of the athletes had asthma but in the rest of the population, only one per cent suffer from asthma," De Merode said. "It's very bizarre.
"There is a clear advantage to people taking drugs meant for asthma sufferers. It's a very popular illness."
According to Patrick Schamasch, the IOC's medical
director, 607 athletes at last year's Sydney Olympics
provided waivers declaring the use of asthma
medications. That was about seven per cent of the total of 10,600 athletes who competed at Sydney.
Figures from previous Olympics show the incidence of
asthma medication use among athletes increased from 3.6
per cent in Atlanta in 1996 to 5.6 per cent two years
later at the Winter Games in Nagano.