Sensitivity of doping biomarkers after administration of a single dose testosterone gel

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EarlyView Article

  • Published: Dec 28, 2017
  • Author: Jenny Mullen, Annica Börjesson, Oscar Hopcraft, Jenny J. Schulze, Magnus Ericsson, Anders Rane, Mikael Lehtihet, Lena Ekström
  • Journal: Drug Testing and Analysis


Micro‐doping with testosterone (T) is challenging to detect with the current doping tests. Today, the methods available to detect T are longitudinally monitoring of urine biomarkers in the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) and measuring the isotopic composition of excreted biomarkers to distinguish the origin of the molecule. In this study, we investigated the detectability of a single dose of 100 mg T gel in 8 healthy male subjects. We also studied which biomarkers were most sensitive to T gel administration, including blood biomarkers. The ABP successfully detected T gel administration in all 8 subjects. The most sensitive ratio was 5αAdiol/E, however, all ratios showed atypical findings. Isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) was performed on 5 subjects and only 2 met all the criteria for a positive test according to the rules set by the World Anti‐Doping Agency (WADA). The other 3 showed inconclusive results. Other markers that were affected by T gel administration, not used for this detection today, were serum dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and T as well as reticulocyte count and percentage in whole blood. miRNA‐122 was not significantly affected by the single T dose. A single dose of 100 mg T gel is possible to detect with today's doping tests. Since a single dose of T gel has an impact on some hematological biomarkers, access to both modules of the ABP when evaluating the athletes' profiles will increase the possibility to detect micro‐doses of T. In addition, serum DHT and T may be a useful addition to the future endocrine module of the ABP.

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