Background and objectives: Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, modified to enhance its anabolic actions (promotion of protein synthesis and muscle growth). They have numerous side effects, and are on the International Olympic Committee’s list of banned substances. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry allows identification and characterisation of steroids and their metabolites in the urine but may not distinguish between pharmaceutical and natural testosterone. Indirect methods to detect doping include determination of the testosterone/epitestosterone glucuronide ratio with suitable cut-off values. Direct evidence may be obtained with a method based on the determination of the carbon isotope ratio of the urinary steroids. This paper aims to give an overview of the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids in sport and methods used in anti-doping laboratories for their detection in urine, with special emphasis on doping with testosterone.
Methods: Review of the recent literature of anabolic steroid testing, athletic use, and adverse effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids.
Results: Procedures used for detection of doping with endogenous steroids are outlined. The World Anti-Doping Agency provided a guide in August 2004 to ensure that laboratories can report, in a uniform way, the presence of abnormal profiles of urinary steroids resulting from the administration of testosterone or its precursors, androstenediol, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone or a testosterone metabolite, dihydrotestosterone, or a masking agent, epitestosterone.
Conclusions: Technology developed for detection of testosterone in urine samples appears suitable when the substance has been administered intramuscularly. Oral administration leads to rapid pharmacokinetics, so urine samples need to be collected in the initial hours after intake. Thus there is a need to find specific biomarkers in urine or plasma to enable detection of long term oral administration of testosterone.
- DHEA, dehydroepiandrosterone
- IOC, International Olympic Committee
- IRMS, isotopic ratio mass spectrometry
- T/E, testosterone to epitestosterone (ratio)
- WADA, World Anti-Doping Agency
- anabolic steroid
- doping control
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Competing interests: none declared
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