Three crucial questions for athletes with asthma

Competing at the highest levels of sport is a challenge for any athlete. If you’re an athlete with asthma, there’s an additional layer of complexity: navigating anti-doping rules for medication that you may use on a daily basis. But with the right knowledge and preparation, it’s easy to compete fairly and safely – without compromising your health.

To help, we’ve put together three crucial questions athletes with asthma should ask themselves:

Is my asthma medication banned in sport?

Some asthma medications are banned in sport or may have conditions, such as maximum dosages, attached to their use. Medications might be banned at all times, banned only during competition, or be permitted with thresholds. And some medications have different rules depending on whether they’re inhaled, taken orally, or injected.

Let’s see some examples:

  • Terbutaline (Bricanyl): banned at all times.

  • Oral or injected salbutamol (Ventolin): banned at all times.

  • Inhaled salbutamol (Ventolin, Respigen or SalAir) permitted at all times within thresholds (Max. 1600mcg over 24 hours; Max. 600mcg in an 8-hour period).

  • Oral prednisone: Banned in-competition* only.

It’s vital to know if your asthma medication – whether inhaled, oral or injected – is permitted in sport, has threshold limits, or is banned entirely. Using it incorrectly could mean you’re breaking anti-doping rules and put you at risk of a sanction.

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*If something is banned in-competition, it’s banned from 11.59pm the night before the competition to the end of the competition and its doping control processes.

Do I need a Therapeutic Use Exemption? If yes, when do I apply?

Some athletes with asthma have no choice but to rely on medications that are banned in sport. If that’s you, you may need a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) to make sure you’re not breaking anti-doping rules.

When you apply for a TUE depends on your TUE status, which is determined by your sport and level of competition. Some athletes need an approved TUE before they used the banned medication (TUE in advance). Other athletes can only apply for a TUE if they test positive for a banned substance (retroactive TUE).

Applying after a positive test may sound scary, but it’s very normal in sport. To support your application, you’ll need all the medical documentation from your diagnosis, appointments, treatments and prescriptions – so keeping comprehensive medical records is a must.

Remember, you can only apply for a TUE for a substance that is banned or when your prescribed dosage exceeds thresholds. And you can’t apply for a TUE as a precautionary measure in case you exceed the medication threshold.

In an emergency, such as an asthma attack, your health comes first. Always follow medical advice and apply for a TUE retroactively if needed, using your treatment notes to support your application.

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Is my anti-doping education up-to-date?

Banned substances and anti-doping processes can change regularly. That’s why it’s so important to keep your education current. We encourage you to retake your clean sport education each year. Building anti-doping knowledge and being conscientious about clean sport processes will enable you to compete at the highest level of your sport protected from making career-ending mistakes.

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