Bioformation of boldenone and related precursors/metabolites in equine feces and urine, with relevance to doping control

Marjaana Viljanto, Andrew T. Kicman, Christopher J. Walker, Kim Wolff, Tessa Muir, Pamela Hincks, Simon Biddle, James Scarth

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Boldenone (1‐dehydrotestosterone) is an exogenous anabolic‐androgenic steroid
(AAS) but is also known to be endogenous in the entire male horse and potentially
formed by microbes in voided urine, the gastrointestinal tract, or feed resulting in
its detection in urine samples. In this study, equine fecal and urine samples were incubated in the presence of selected stable isotope labeled AAS precursors to investigate
whether microbial activity could result in 1‐dehydrogenation, in particular the formation of boldenone. Fecal matter was initially selected for investigation because of its
high microbial activity, which could help to identify potential 1‐dehydrogenated biomarkers that might also be present in low quantities in urine. Fecal incubations
displayed Δ1‐dehydrogenase activity, as evidenced by the use of isotope labeled precursors to show the formation of boldenone and boldione from testosterone and
androstenedione, as well as the formation of Δ1‐progesterone and boldione from
progesterone. Unlabeled forms were also produced in unspiked fecal samples with
Δ1‐progesterone being identified for the first time. Subsequent incubation of urine
samples with the labeled AAS precursors demonstrated that Δ1‐dehydrogenase activity can also occur in this matrix. In all urine samples where labeled boldenone or
boldione were detected, labeled Δ1‐progesterone was also detected. Δ1‐
progesterone was not detected any non‐incubated urine samples or following an
administration of boldenone undecylenate to one mare/filly. Δ1‐progesterone
appears to be a candidate for further investigation as a suitable biomarker to help
evaluate whether boldenone present in a urine sample may have arisen due to microbial activity rather than by its exogenous administration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDrug Testing And Analysis
Early online date26 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Oct 2019


  • boldenone
  • equine
  • feces
  • urine
  • Δ1-progesterone


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