Detection of dehydroepiandrosterone misuse by means of gas chromatography- combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry

Detection of dehydroepiandrosterone misuse by means of gas chromatography- combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry / Ute Mareck, Hans Geyer, Ulrich Flenker, Thomas Piper, Mario Thevis, Wilhelm Schänzer

  • European Journal of Mass Spectrometry 13 (2007) 6 (December), p. 377-384
  • PMID: 18417762
  • DOI: 10.1255/ejms.900


According to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules (WADA Technical Document-TD2004EAAS) urine samples containing dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) concentrations greater than 100 ng ML(-1) shall be submitted to isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) analysis. The threshold concentration is based on the equivalent to the glucuronide, and the DHEA concentrations have to be adjusted for a specific gravity value of 1.020. In 2006, 11,012 doping control urine samples from national and international federations were analyzed in the Cologne doping control laboratory, 100 (0.9%) of them yielding concentrations of DHEA greater than 100 ng mL(-1). Sixty-eight percent of the specimens showed specific gravity values higher than 1.020, 52% originated from soccer players, 95% were taken in competition, 85% were male urines, 99% of the IRMS results did not indicate an application of testosterone or related prohormones. Only one urine sample was reported as an adverse analytical finding having 319 ng mL(-1) DHEA (screening result), more than 10,000 ng mL(-1) androsterone and depleted carbon isotope ratio values for the testosterone metabolites androsterone and etiocholanolone. Statistical evaluation showed significantly different DHEA concentrations between specimens taken in- and out-of- competition, whereas females showed smaller DHEA values than males for both types of control. Also a strong influence of the DHEA excretion on different sport disciplines was detectable. The highest DHEA values were detected for game sports (soccer, basketball, handball, ice hockey), followed by boxing and wrestling. In 2007, 6622 doping control urine samples were analyzed for 3alpha,5-cyclo-5alpha-androstan-6beta-ol-17-one (3alpha,5-cyclo), a DHEA metabolite which was described as a useful gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) screening marker for DHEA abuse. Nineteen urine specimens showed concentrations higher than the suggested threshold of 140 ng mL(-1), six urine samples yielded additionally DHEA concentrations higher than 100 ng mL(-1), none of them showing positive IRMS findings. These results should be taken into consideration in future discussions about threshold values for endogenous steroids in doping control.


Research / Study
1 December 2007
Flenker, Ulrich
Geyer, Hans
Mareck, Ute
Piper, Thomas
Schänzer, Wilhelm
Thevis, Mario
Other organisations
Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln (DSHS) - German Sport University Cologne
Analytical aspects
Mass spectrometry analysis
Testing method development
Doping classes
S1. Anabolic Agents
Prasterone (dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA, 3β-hydroxyandrost-5-en-17-one)
Document type
Pdf file
Date generated
8 March 2023
Date of last modification
9 March 2023
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