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Steroid profiles of professional soccer players: an international comparative study
  1. E Strahm1,
  2. P-E Sottas1,
  3. C Schweizer1,
  4. M Saugy1,
  5. J Dvorak2,
  6. C Saudan1
  1. 1
    Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses, University Center of Legal Medicine, Epalinges, Switzerland
  2. 2
    FIFA/F-MARC Fifa Medical Assessment and Research Centre, Zürich, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Christophe Saudan, Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses, University Center of Legal Medicine, West Switzerland, Chemin des Croisettes 22, 1066 Epalinges, Switzerland; Christophe.Saudan{at}


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 interindividual variability in the T/E between Caucasians and Asians. Here, the variability of urinary steroid profiles was examined 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 hypothesised in Asians based on specific concentration ratio of 5α-/5β-androstane-3α,17β-diol in urine.

Conclusion: These results demonstrate that a unique and non-specific 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 whether the remaining unexplained disparities have an environmental or a genetic origin.

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  • Competing interests None declared.