Screening of anabolic steroids in horse urine by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

Screening of anabolic steroids in horse urine by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry / Nola H. Yu, Emmie N.M. Ho, David K.K. Leung, Terence S.M. Wan

  • Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis 37 (2005) 5 (29 April), p. 1031-1038
  • PMID: 15862683
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.jpba.2004.08.041


Anabolic steroids have the capability of improving athletic performance and are banned substances in the Olympic games as well as in horseracing and equestrian competitions. The control of their abuse in racehorses is traditionally performed by detecting the presence of anabolic steroids and/or their metabolite(s) in urine samples using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). However, this approach usually requires tedious sample processing and chemical derivatisation steps and could be very insensitive in detecting certain steroids. This paper describes a high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS-MS) method for the detection of anabolic steroids that are poorly covered by GC-MS. Enzyme-treated urine was processed by solid-phase extraction (SPE) using a Bond Elut Certify cartridge, followed by a base wash for further cleanup. Separation of the steroids was carried out on a reversed-phase DB-8 column using 0.1% acetic acid and methanol as the mobile phase in a gradient elution programme. The mass spectrometer for the detection of the steroids was operated in the positive electrospray ionisation (ESI) mode with multiple reaction monitoring (MRM). Urine samples fortified with 15 anabolic steroids (namely, androstadienone, 1-androstenedione, bolasterone, boldione, 4-estrenedione, gestrinone, methandrostenolone, methenolone, 17alpha-methyltestosterone, norbolethone, normethandrolone, oxandrolone, stenbolone, trenbolone and turinabol) at low ng/mL levels were consistently detected. No significant matrix interference was observed at the retention times of the targeted ion masses in blank urine samples. The method specificity, sensitivity, precision, recoveries, and the performance of the enzyme hydrolysis step were evaluated. The successful application of the method to analyse methenolone acetate administration urine samples demonstrated that the method could be effective in detecting anabolic steroids and their metabolites in horse urine.


Position Statement
22 October 2004
Ho, Emmie N.M.
Leung, David K.K.
Wan, Terence S.M.
Yu, Nola H.
Hong Kong
Other organisations
Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC)
Analytical aspects
Animal doping
Mass spectrometry analysis
Testing method development
Doping classes
S1. Anabolic Agents
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Date generated
13 February 2023
Date of last modification
9 March 2023
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