19-Norandrostenedione (NAED) and nandrolone are anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs). Nandrolone was regarded solely as a synthetic AAS until the 1980s when trace concentrations of apparently endogenous nandrolone were detected in urine samples obtained from intact male horses (stallions). Since then, its endogenous origin has been reported in boars and bulls; endogenous NAED and nandrolone have been identified in plasma and urine samples collected from stallions. More recently, however, it was suggested that NAED and nandrolone detected in urine samples from stallions are primarily artifacts due to the analytical procedure. The present study was undertaken to determine whether NAED and nandrolone detected in plasma and urine samples collected from stallions are truly endogenous or artifacts from sample processing. To answer this question, fresh plasma and urine samples from ≥8 stallions were analyzed for the two AASs, soon after collection, by liquid chromatography hyphenated to tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). NAED and nandrolone were not detected in fresh plasma samples but detected in the same samples post storage. Concentrations of both AASs increased with storage time, and the increases were greater at a higher storage temperature (37°C versus 4°C, and ambient temperature versus 4°C). Although NAED was detected in some fresh stallion urine samples, its concentration (<407 pg/mL) was far lower (<0.4%) than that in the same samples post storage (at ambient temperature for 15 days). Nandrolone was not detected in most of fresh urine samples but detected in the same samples post storage. Based on these results, it is concluded that all NAED and nandrolone detected in stored plasma samples of stallions and most of them in the stored urine samples are not from endogenous origins but spontaneously generated during sample storage, most likely from spontaneous decarboxylation of androstenedione-19-oic acid and testosterone-19-oic acid. To our knowledge, it is the first time that all NAED and nandrolone detected in plasma of stallions and most of them detected in the urine have been shown to be spontaneously generated in vitro during sample storage. This finding would have significant implications with regard to the regulation of the two steroids in horse racing.
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