Do inhaled beta(2)-agonists have an ergogenic potential in non-asthmatic competitive athletes?

Sports Med. 2007;37(2):95-102. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200737020-00001.


The prevalence of asthma is higher in elite athletes than in the general population. The risk of developing asthmatic symptoms is the highest in endurance athletes and swimmers. Asthma seems particularly widespread in winter-sport athletes such as cross-country skiers. Asthmatic athletes commonly use inhaled beta(2)-agonists to prevent and treat asthmatic symptoms. However, beta(2)-agonists are prohibited according to the Prohibited List of the World Anti-Doping Agency. An exception can be made only for the substances formoterol, salbutamol, salmeterol and terbutaline by inhalation, as long as a therapeutic use exemption has been applied for and granted. In this context, the question arises of whether beta(2)-agonists have ergogenic benefits justifying the prohibition of these substances. In 17 of 19 randomised placebo-controlled trials in non-asthmatic competitive athletes, performance-enhancing effects of the inhaled beta(2)-agonists formoterol, salbutamol, salmeterol and terbutaline could not be proved. This is particularly true for endurance performance, anaerobic power and strength performance. In three of four studies, even supratherapeutic doses of salbutamol (800-1200 microg) had no ergogenic effect. In contrast to inhaled beta(2)-agonists, oral administration of salbutamol seems to be able to improve the muscle strength and the endurance performance. There appears to be no justification to prohibit inhaled beta(2)-agonists from the point of view of the ergogenic effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Antagonists*
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / pharmacology
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Doping in Sports
  • Exercise Tolerance / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2 / drug effects
  • Sports*


  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2