In a Case of Death Involving Steroids, Hair Testing is more Informative than Blood or Urine Testing

In a Case of Death Involving Steroids, Hair Testing is more Informative than Blood or Urine Testing / Pascal Kintz, Laurie Gheddar, Adeline Blanchot, Alice Ameline, Jean-Sébastien Raul. - (Journal of Analytical Toxicology (2021) 15 May)

  • PMID: 33991187
  • DOI: 10.1093/jat/bkab048


A 59-year old male was found dead at home, with 2 empty vials of an oily preparation attributed to a manufacturer from East Europe. There was no label on the vial. The subject was a former weightlifter, also known as an anabolic steroids abuser. The local prosecutor ordered a body examination, which was unremarkable and allowed collecting femoral blood, urine and scalp hair (6 cm, brown). He was treated for cardiac insufficiency with quinidine. Biological specimens were submitted to standard toxicological analyses including a screening with LC-QToF, but also to a specific LC-MS/MS method for anabolic steroids testing. Ethanol was not found in both blood and urine. Quinidine blood concentration (791 ng/mL) was therapeutic. No drug of abuse was identified. In blood, testosterone was less that 1 ng/mL and no other steroid was identified. In urine, T/E was 1.56 and boldenone showed up at 9 ng/mL. The hair test results, performed on the whole length, demonstrated repetitive steroids abuse, including testosterone (140 pg/mg), testosterone propionate (605 pg/mg) and testosterone decanoate (249 pg/mg), but also boldenone (160 pg/mg), trenbolone (143 pg/mg) and metandienone (60 pg/mg). Given forensic laboratories have limited access to steroid urinary metabolites reference material due to specific regulations (to avoid testing athletes before anti-doping verifications), hair analyses seem to be the best approach to document anabolic agents abuse. Indeed, in hair, the target drug is the parent compound and, in addition, when compared to blood or urine, this matrix has a much larger window of detection. The pathologist concluded to cardiac insufficiency in a context involving repetitive abuse of anabolic drugs. This case indicates that more attention should be paid to anabolic steroids, in a context of sudden cardiac death.


Case report
15 May 2021
Ameline, Alice
Blanchot, Adeline
Gheddar, Laurie
Kintz, Pascal
Raul, Jean-Sébastien
Other organisations
Institut de médecine légale de Strasbourg
Analytical aspects
Mass spectrometry analysis
Doping classes
S1. Anabolic Agents
Metandienone (17β-hydroxy-17α-methylandrosta-1,4-dien-3-one)
T/E ratio (testosterone / epitestosterone)
Trenbolone (17β-hydroxyestr-4,9,11-trien-3-one)
Medical terms
Athlete deceased
Health effects
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Date generated
7 June 2021
Date of last modification
23 June 2021
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