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The Effect of Formoterol Inhalation on Endurance Performance in Hypobaric Conditions


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2006 - Volume 38 - Issue 12 - p 2132-2137
doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000233801.46906.9b
BASIC SCIENCES: Original Investigations

Introduction: Inhaled β2-agonists are important therapeutic agents for the treatment of exercise-induced asthma in athletes but are restricted by international antidoping regulations.

Purpose: To investigate whether 18 μg of inhaled formoterol affects endurance performance during running at high altitudes until exhaustion among 20 nonasthmatic male athletes aged 21-35 yr.

Methods: In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, the athletes performed one screening test and two similar performance tests. Each performance test consisted of 20 min of warm-up and a running test until exhaustion, which lasted 210-300 s in hypobaric conditions equal to 2000 m above sea level. Maximal oxygen consumption (V˙O2max) and peak ventilation (V˙Epeak) were measured during running, and pulmonary function was measured before and after exercise. The screening test was used to determine running speed on days 2 and 3, with inhaled formoterol or placebo in a randomized manner before exercise. V˙O2, V˙E, arterial oxyhemoglobin saturation (SPO2), and heart rate (HR) were measured during exercise, and maximum plasma lactate concentration was measured after exercise.

Results: Inhaled formoterol did not improve running time to exhaustion, V˙O2, V˙E, SPO2, or HR (P > 0.05) in hypobaric conditions compared with placebo, although formoterol significantly improved lung function (FEV1 and FEF50) 15 and 30 min before exercise and 3, 6, 10, and 15 min after exercise.

Conclusions: Inhaled formoterol did not improve endurance performance in healthy nonasthmatic athletes at hypobaric conditions equal to 2000 m above sea level. Inhaled formoterol can thus be used by asthmatic athletes in sports under extreme conditions.

1Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, Oslo, NORWAY; 2Voksentoppen BKL, Rikshospitalet, Oslo, NORWAY; and 3Oslo Research Group of Asthma, Allergy in Children, Lung and the Environment, Oslo, NORWAY

Address for correspondence: Amund Riiser, Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, Postboks 4014 Ullevâl Stadion, 0806 Oslo, Norway; E-mail:

Submitted for publication February 2006.

Accepted for publication June 2006.

©2006The American College of Sports Medicine