Nice. It appears the UCI and maybe WADA are going to investigate Allesandro Petacchi for using Salbutamol. Bad stuff, right? He's a cheater, a doper, right?
Well, maybe not. It is a really common asthma medicine and actually on the list of permissible medicines, commonly known as albuterol in the U.S. If you have asthma, and exercise aggravates it to the extent you have a coughing/choking fit, you need to take a hit from your inhaler to relieve the symptoms. The drug is a bronchodialator, and it allows your windpipe and your lungs to relax, so you can start breathing again. What happens if you don't? You can die. I've had really bad asthma problems in the past and especially get crushed in cold, windy, dusty weather... it's almost nightmarish to be really healthy and reduced to knee walking, mid-workout, by a friggin' brutal cough. It shakes up your view of yourself. You feel mortal. It is definitely not a joke.
As a matter of fact, a friend of mine was out walking in the woods about two years ago and had an asthma attack of this sort, exercise-induced. He didn't have his inhaler, had a severe asthma attack, and died right there. It's a big deal to be able to use an inhaler if you have asthma and are trying to participate in this most ventilatory of sports.
You might want to consider filing the appropriate paperwork, however, if you choose to be one of these crazed dopers. It would be a bummer to have to give back the Clif bars you won in a prime along with your 7th place finish at Greenbelt.
There is actually a really interesting discussion of this in an old Cycling News letters-to-the-editor page. Half of the writing riders - who are all-knowing, it seems - appear to believe that if you ride and claim to have asthma, you're just a goddam filthy doper cheat. Guess that makes me one. Funny - until my asthma was diagnosed in 2002, I thought it was normal to have an enormous coughing fit after every single hard run, rugby game, or lap session in the pool, and to collapse to my knees coughing out my lungs. I had always figured it had something to do with having chronic bronchitis as a kid. Little did I know, I was just setting up a good backstory to excuse my doping when I hit the highest levels of the sport, the MABRA Cat IV's... Just like Ale Jet. Of course there is evidence that for sprinter type riders Albuterol provides no performance improvement - other than keeping you from dying of course - but we never let puny evidentiary issues get in the way of our doping witch hunts, do we?
I'm not on the stuff right now because the weather is fine, but I'm keeping the inhaler handy, and putting in the paperwork so there's no questions. I'd really hate to die out on the course or in training due to fear of Dick Pound, or what some know-it-all jerk thinks he knows about the condition of my crappy lungs.