Organisations responsible for monitoring doping among athletes should consider tighter restrictions on the use of certain drugs now permitted for therapeutic purposes or to control pain, the authors of a new analysis of doping data from Belgium and the Netherlands conclude.
Doctors Wim Van Thuyne and Frans T. Delbeke of the University of Ghent in Belgium noted a sharp increase in the use of corticosteroids and asthma medications known as beta-agonists among cyclists between 2002 and 2005. Both types of drugs can have performance-enhancing effects.
"These results indicate that the current granting of therapeutic use exemption for corticosteroids and beta agonists needs to be revised and that threshold levels for beta agonists should be implemented," the researchers state in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.
While doping organisations will allow athletes to use certain medications if they obtain therapeutic use exemptions, the researchers note, some of these medications can still be abused.
They point out that the percentage of athletes claiming to have asthma is increasing, especially among endurance athletes.
How the study was done
The researchers reviewed 18 645 doping control forms collected between 2002 and 2005 by the International Cycling Union (ICU), the Belgian Cycling Federation, and the Dutch and Belgian national doping organisations.
All were filled out by athletes who declared the medications they had taken in the three days previous to competition.
In 2002, 19.8 percent of athletes reported taking at least one type of declared medication, but by 2005 the proportion rose to 24.67 percent.
Overall, cyclists' use of corticosteroids rose from about 15 percent in 2002 to nearly 19 percent in 2005, but during that same period the percentage of cyclists reporting corticosteroid use to the ICU rose from about 25 percent to more than 36 percent, while use of beta agonists also increased 'drastically'.
Corticosteroids can boost energy levels and produce a euphoric effect, while beta agonists can stimulate respiration and the central nervous system and also have anabolic effects.
Local use of corticosteroids is permitted by doping organisations, but system wide use is banned, the researchers note; nevertheless, they add, some athletes have declared systemic use of the drugs. – (Reuters Health)
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