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May 7th, 2008:

Asthma Sufferers Can Breathe Easy, Says Expert

Karolos Grohmann in Athens – Updated on May 07, 2008

Athletes suffering from asthma faced no greater health risk at this summer’s Beijing Olympics than other competitors despite the city’s pollution problem, a European anti-asthma organisation said yesterday.

Beijing has been under increasing pressure to improve air quality ahead of the August 8-24 Games after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said there was some risk to athletes competing in endurance events lasting more than an hour.

“I don’t see any greater danger to the athletes suffering from asthma who will be competing in the Beijing Olympics than the other athletes,” said Nikos Papadopoulos, vice-president of the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). “We want to stress that having good diagnosis and treatment means that any athlete suffering from asthma can reach his or her full potential.”

Beijing’s pollution has already claimed its first high-profile victim, with twice Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie, who suffers from asthma, withdrawing from the men’s marathon fearing pollution could damage his health.

The IOC said it would consider rescheduling events that require physical activity of more than an hour if the air quality on the day was not satisfactory.

Past studies have shown about 20 per cent of summer sports athletes have asthma, with cyclists, runners and swimmers reporting a high number of cases. “But we believe diagnosis and the right treatment can lead to gold,” Papadopoulos added.