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Steroid profiles of professional soccer players: an international comparative study
  1. Emmanuel Strahm (emmanuel.strahm{at}
  1. Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analysis, Switzerland
    1. Pierre-Edouard Sottas
    1. Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analysis, Switzerland
      1. Carine Schweizer
      1. Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analysis, Switzerland
        1. Martiel Saugy
        1. Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analysis, Switzerland
          1. Jiri Dvorak
          1. FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre, Switzerland
            1. Christophe Saudan (christophe.saudan{at}
            1. Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analysis, Switzerland


              Background and objectives: Urinary steroid profiling is used in doping controls to detect testosterone abuse. A testosterone over epitestosterone (T/E) ratio exceeding 4.0 is considered as suspicious of testosterone administration, irrespectively of individual heterogeneous factors such as the athlete’s ethnicity. A deletion polymorphism in the UGT2B17 gene was demonstrated to account for a significant part of the inter-individual variability in the T/E between Caucasians and Asians. Here, we examined the variability of urinary steroid profiles in a widely heterogeneous cohort of professional soccer players. Method: The steroid profile of 57 Africans, 32 Asians, 50 Caucasians and 32 Hispanics was determined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Results: Significant differences have been observed between all ethnic groups. After estimation of the prevalence of the UGT2B17 deletion/deletion genotype (African:22%; Asian:81%; Caucasian:10%; Hispanic:7%), ethnic-specific thresholds were developed for a specificity of 99% for the T/E (African:5.6; Asian:3.8; Caucasian:5.7; Hispanic:5.8). Finally, another polymorphism could be hypothesized in Asians based on specific concentrations ratio of 5a-/5b-androstane-3a,17b-diol in urine. Conclusion: These results demonstrate that a unique and nonspecific threshold to evidence testosterone misuse is not fit for purpose. An athlete's endocrinological passport consisting of a longitudinal follow-up together with the ethnicity and/or the genotype would strongly enhance the detection of testosterone abuse. Finally, additional genotyping studies should be undertaken to determine if the remaining unexplained disparities have an environmental or a genetic origin.

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