Steroid profiles of professional soccer players: an international comparative study

Br J Sports Med. 2009 Dec;43(14):1126-30. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.056242. Epub 2009 Mar 12.


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 5alpha-/5beta-androstane-3alpha,17beta-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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Doping in Sports / prevention & control*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genotype
  • Glucuronosyltransferase / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics
  • Racial Groups / genetics*
  • Reference Values
  • Soccer*
  • Steroids / urine*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Steroids
  • Glucuronosyltransferase
  • UGT2B17 protein, human