Investigations on hydrogen isotope ratios of endogenous urinary steroids: reference-population-based thresholds and proof-of-concept

Drug Test Anal. 2012 Sep;4(9):717-27. doi: 10.1002/dta.1416. Epub 2012 Sep 19.


Carbon isotope ratio (CIR) analysis has been routinely and successfully used in sports drug testing for many years to uncover the misuse of endogenous steroids. One limitation of the method is the availability of steroid preparations exhibiting CIRs equal to endogenous steroids. To overcome this problem, hydrogen isotope ratios (HIR) of endogenous urinary steroids were investigated as a potential complement; results obtained from a reference population of 67 individuals are presented herein. An established sample preparation method was modified and improved to enable separate measurements of each analyte of interest where possible. From the fraction of glucuronidated steroids; pregnanediol, 16-androstenol, 11-ketoetiocholanolone, androsterone (A), etiocholanolone (E), dehydroepiandrosterone (D), 5α- and 5β-androstanediol, testosterone and epitestosterone were included. In addition, sulfate conjugates of A, E, D, epiandrosterone and 17α- and 17β-androstenediol were considered and analyzed after acidic solvolysis. The obtained results enabled the calculation of the first reference-population-based thresholds for HIR of urinary steroids that can readily be applied to routine doping control samples. Proof-of-concept was accomplished by investigating urine specimens collected after a single oral application of testosterone-undecanoate. The HIR of most testosterone metabolites were found to be significantly influenced by the exogenous steroid beyond the established threshold values. Additionally, one regular doping control sample with an extraordinary testosterone/epitestosterone ratio of 100 without suspicious CIR was subjected to the complementary methodology of HIR analysis. The HIR data eventually provided evidence for the exogenous origin of urinary testosterone metabolites. Despite further investigations on HIR being advisable to corroborate the presented reference-population-based thresholds, the developed method proved to be a new tool supporting modern sports drug testing procedures.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Steroids / urine*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods
  • Young Adult


  • Steroids
  • Hydrogen