Recent developments in the use of isotope ratio mass spectrometry in sports drug testing

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2011 Aug;401(2):433-47. doi: 10.1007/s00216-011-4886-6. Epub 2011 Mar 30.


According to the annual report of the World Anti-Doping Agency, steroids are the most frequently detected class of doping agents. Detecting the misuse of endogenously occurring steroids, i.e. steroids such as testosterone that are produced naturally by humans, is one of the most challenging issues in doping control analysis. The established thresholds for urinary concentrations or concentration ratios such as the testosterone/epitestosterone quotient are sometimes inconclusive owing to the large biological variation in these parameters.For more than 15 years, doping control laboratories focused on the carbon isotope ratios of endogenous steroids to distinguish between naturally elevated steroid profile parameters and illicit administration of steroids. A variety of different methods has been developed throughout the last decade and the number of different steroids under investigation by isotope ratio mass spectrometry has recently grown considerably. Besides norandrosterone, boldenone was found to occur endogenously in rare cases and the misuse of corticosteroids or epitestosterone can now be detected with the aid of carbon isotope ratios as well. In addition, steroids excreted as sulfoconjugates were investigated, and the first results regarding hydrogen isotope ratios recently became available.All of these will be presented in detail within this review together with some considerations on validation issues and on identification of parameters influencing steroidal isotope ratios in urine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Doping in Sports*
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry*
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / urine*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sports*
  • Steroids / urine*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Steroids