The added value of dried blood spot (DBS) samples complementing the information obtained from commonly routine doping control matrices is continuously increasing in sports drug testing. In this project, a robotic-assisted non-destructive hematocrit measurement from dried blood spots by near-infrared spectroscopy followed by a fully automated sample preparation including strong cation exchange solid-phase extraction and evaporation enabled the detection of 46 lower molecular mass (< 2 kDa) peptide and non-peptide drugs and drug candidates by means of LC-HRMS. The target analytes included, amongst others, agonists of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptor, the ghrelin receptor, the human growth hormone receptor, and the antidiuretic hormone receptor. Furthermore, several glycine derivatives of growth hormone-releasing peptides (GHRPs), arguably designed to undermine current anti-doping testing approaches, were implemented to the presented detection method. The initial testing assay was validated according to the World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines with estimated LODs between 0.5 and 20 ng/mL. As a proof of concept, authentic post-administration specimens containing GHRP-2 and GHRP-6 were successfully analyzed. Furthermore, DBS obtained from a sampling device operating with microneedles for blood collection from the upper arm were analyzed and the matrix was cross-validated for selected parameters. The introduction of the hematocrit measurement method can be of great value for doping analysis as it allows for quantitative DBS applications by managing the well-recognized "hematocrit effect." Graphical abstract.
Keywords: Doping; Dried blood spots (DBS); Growth hormone–releasing peptides (GHRP); Hematocrit (Hct); Sport; TAP blood collection device.