The use of stable carbon isotope analysis to detect the abuse of testosterone in cattle

Analyst. 1998 Dec;123(12):2405-8. doi: 10.1039/a805529g.


The use of stable carbon isotope analysis to detect the administration of anabolic steroids to cattle was investigated. Samples were extracted by solid-phase extraction on C18 cartridges. Stable isotope ratios (13C:12C) were measured by gas chromatography-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-IRMS) of the underivatised extracts. A programmed temperature vaporiser (PTV) injector was installed in the GC-IRMS system, which conferred a number of advantages. First, it allowed large volumes of sample to be injected whilst the injector liner was cool. The solvent was subsequently vented to the atmosphere prior to transfer of the sample to the GC column. Thus a significantly greater amount of sample could be presented for analysis, thereby increasing the sensitivity. Second, by this means virtually all the solvent could be removed prior to analysis. This eliminates solvent peak tailing, which can be a major problem in GC-IRMS. Finally, the PTV allowed the use of higher initial GC oven temperatures, which in turn facilitated the analysis of underivatised steroids by reducing the GC run time and improving the chromatographic peak shape. The carbon isotope composition of 5 beta-androstane-3 alpha,17 alpha-diol, the major metabolite of testosterone found in bovine bile, was measured in bile samples from untreated cattle and from cattle injected intramuscularly with testosterone or a mixture of testosterone esters. There was considerable inter-animal variation in the values obtained and there was no significant difference between samples from treated and untreated animals. However, when the isotopic composition of the metabolite was normalised with respect to that of an endogenous reference compound (cholesterol) in the same sample, the difference between treated and untreated animals become statistically significant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anabolic Agents / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Bile / chemistry*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Cattle / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Male
  • Testosterone / administration & dosage
  • Testosterone / analysis*


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Testosterone