One third of Team Sky cyclists suffer from some form of asthma, according to a study conducted by John Dickinson of Kent University.
Dickinson, a world expert on asthma in sport, also tested all 33 UK-based swimmers from the British Swimming squad and found that 70% have some form of asthma. This is compared to a a national asthma rate of about 8% to 10%.
The test was for not only so-called classic asthma, but also what is known as exercise-induced asthma, or EIA. The symptoms are similar but EIA is caused by rapid and heavy breathing during exertion.
Dickinson told The Guardian that from his work with cyclists, a surprising number carry inhalers in the back pockets of their jerseys: “Cognitively, the inhaler can give you the confidence to push yourself that little bit more. Sometimes a rider will know a climb is coming, so they take a couple of puffs.”
Previously, doping authorities would have to clear the use of asthma medications with a medical certificate. Now, any athlete can use common bronchio-dilating inhalers like salbuthamol provided they do not exceed a certain dose.
Earlier this year, Chris Froome was given a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to take 40mg per day of the oral corticosteroid Prednisolone during the Tour de Romandie, to help deal with an ‘asthmatic response’ and this was approved by the UCI.