Stability and detectability of testosterone esters in dried blood spots after intramuscular injections

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While misuse of testosterone esters is widespread in elite and recreational sports, direct detection of intact testosterone esters in doping control samples is hampered by the rapid hydrolysis by esterases present in the blood. With dried blood spot (DBS) as sample matrix, continued degradation of the esters is avoided due to inactivation of the hydrolase enzymes in dried blood. Here we have developed the method further for detection of testosterone esters in DBS with focus on robustness and applicability in doping control. To demonstrate the method's feasibility, DBS samples from men receiving two intramuscular injections of Sustanon® 250 (n = 9) or placebo (n = 10), were collected, transported and stored prior to analysis, to mimic a doping control scenario. The presented nanoLC-HRMS/MS method appeared reliable and suitable for direct detection of four testosterone esters (testosterone decanoate, isocaproate, phenylpropionate and propionate) after extraction from DBS. Sustanon® was detected in all subjects for at least five days, with detection window up to 14 days for three of the esters. Evaluation of analyte stability showed that while storage at room temperature is tolerated well for a few days, testosterone esters are highly stable (> 18 months) in DBS when stored in frozen conditions. Collectively, these findings demonstrate the applicability of DBS sampling in doping control for detection of steroid esters. The fast collection and reduced shipment costs of DBS compared to urine and standard blood samples, respectively, will allow more frequent and/or large-scale testing to increase detection and deterrence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDrug Testing and Analysis
Issue number11-12
Pages (from-to)1926-1937
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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    Research areas

  • Faculty of Science - Dried blood spots (DBS), Anabolic steroid esters, Doping control analysis, Mass spectrometry

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