Wastewater-based tracing of doping use by the general population and amateur athletes

Wastewater-based tracing of doping use by the general population and amateur athletes / Ana Causanilles, Vera Nordmann, Dennis Vughs, Erik Emke, Olivier de Hon, Félix Hernández, Pim de Voogt. - (Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (2018) 410 (15 January); p. 1793–1803)

  • DOI: 10.1007/s00216-017-0835-3.
  • PMCID: PMC5807464.
  • PMID: 29335765


The present study investigates the applicability of the chemical analysis of wastewater to assess the use of doping substances by the general population and amateur athletes. To this end, an analytical methodology that can identify and quantify a list of 15 substances from the groups of anabolic steroids, weight loss products, and masking agents in wastewater has been developed. The method uses solid phase extraction to increase the detection sensitivity of the target analytes, expected to be present at very low concentrations (ng L−1 range), and decrease possible matrix interferences. Instrumental analysis is performed by liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry, allowing data acquisition in both full scan and tandem MS mode. The method has been successfully validated at two concentration levels (50 and 200 ng L−1) with limits of quantification ranging between 0.7 and 60 ng L−1, intra- and inter-day precision expressed as relative standard deviation below 15%, procedural recoveries between 60 and 160% and matrix effects ranging from 45 to 121%. The stability of the analytes in wastewater was evaluated at different storage temperatures illustrating the importance of freezing the samples immediately after collection. The application of the method to 24-h composite wastewater samples collected at the entrance of three wastewater treatment plants and one pumping station while different sport events were taking place revealed the presence in wastewater, and hence the use, of the weight loss substances ephedrine, norephedrine, methylhexanamine, and 2,4-dinitrophenol. The use of these stimulants was visible just prior and during the event days and in greater amounts than anabolic steroids or masking agents.

Original document


Research / Study
15 January 2018
Causanilles, Ana
de Voogt, Pim
Emke, Erik
Hermández, Félix
Hon, Olivier de
Nordmann, Vera
Vughs, Dennis
Other organisations
Dopingautoriteit - Doping Authority Netherlands
KWR Watercycle Research Institute
Universidad Jaume I - Jaume I University
Universiteit van Amsterdam (Uva) - University of Amsterdam
Analytical aspects
Mass spectrometry analysis
Doping classes
S1. Anabolic Agents
S5. Diuretics and Other Masking Agents
S6. Stimulants
Medical terms
Substance use research
Doping culture
Gym/fitness environment
Document category
Scientific article
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Pdf file
Date generated
9 April 2020
Date of last modification
7 September 2020
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