Isotope ratio mass spectrometry - history and terminology in brief

Drug Test Anal. 2012 Dec;4(12):893-6. doi: 10.1002/dta.1399. Epub 2012 Sep 12.


The history of isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) is briefly described. It is shown that the fundamental design of isotope ratio mass spectrometers has not changed since the 1940s. The basic findings concerning the natural variation of isotope abundances even date back to the 1930s. Recent improvements in the methodology mainly concern online coupling and analytical peripherals. The nature of isotopic scales necessitates a specific terminology which is unfamiliar to many analysts. However, corresponding guidelines exist that should be adopted by the anti-doping community. Currently, steroids represent the only group of compounds routinely analyzed by IRMS in doping-control. Suggestions are made in respect to a harmonized terminology concerning the nature and origins of steroids.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / classification
  • Anabolic Agents / urine*
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Carbon Isotopes / history
  • Carbon Isotopes / urine*
  • Doping in Sports* / history
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry* / history
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / classification
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / history
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / urine*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Steroids / classification
  • Steroids / urine*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / history
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Steroids