Clenbuterol is a well-established β2-agonist, which is prohibited in sports and strictly regulated for use in the livestock industry. During the last few years clenbuterol-positive results in doping controls and in samples from residents or travellers from a high-risk country were suspected to be related the illegal use of clenbuterol for fattening. A sensitive liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method was developed to detect low clenbuterol residues in hair with a detection limit of 0.02 pg/mg. A sub-therapeutic application study and a field study with volunteers, who have a high risk of contamination, were performed. For the application study, a total dosage of 30 µg clenbuterol was applied to 20 healthy volunteers on 5 subsequent days. One month after the beginning of the application, clenbuterol was detected in the proximal hair segment (0-1 cm) in concentrations between 0.43 and 4.76 pg/mg. For the second part, samples of 66 Mexican soccer players were analyzed. In 89% of these volunteers, clenbuterol was detectable in their hair at concentrations between 0.02 and 1.90 pg/mg. A comparison of both parts showed no statistical difference between sub-therapeutic application and contamination. In contrast, discrimination to a typical abuse of clenbuterol is apparently possible. Due to these findings results of real doping control samples can be evaluated.
Keywords: clenbuterol; doping; food contamination; hair.
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.