Advances in the detection of designer steroids in anti-doping

Bioanalysis. 2014 Mar;6(6):881-96. doi: 10.4155/bio.14.9.


The abuse of unknown designer androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS) is considered to be an issue of significant importance, as AAS are the choice of doping preference according to World Anti-doping Agency statistics. In addition, unknown designer AAS are preferred since the World Anti-doping Agency mass spectrometric identification criteria cannot be applied to unknown molecules. Consequently, cheating athletes have a strong motive to use designer AAS in order to both achieve performance enhancement and to escape from testing positive in anti-doping tests. To face the problem, a synergy is required between the anti-doping analytical science and sports anti-doping regulations. This Review examines various aspects of the designer AAS. First, the structural modifications of the already known AAS to create new designer molecules are explained. A list of the designer synthetic and endogenous AAS is then presented. Second, we discuss progress in the detection of designer AAS using: mass spectrometry and bioassays; analytical data processing of the unknown designer AAS; metabolite synthesis; and, long-term storage of urine and blood samples. Finally, the introduction of regulations from sports authorities as preventive measures for long-term storage and reprocessing of samples, initially reported as negatives, is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anabolic Agents / metabolism*
  • Doping in Sports / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Steroids / analysis*


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Steroids