The interpretation of the steroidal module of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) in female athletes is complex due to the large variation of the endogenous urinary steroids. The menstrual cycle seems to be one of the largest confounders of the steroid profile. The duration of the different phases in the menstrual cycle differs between women and are difficult to predict only by counting days after menstruation. Here we have determined the follicle, ovulation and luteal phases, by assessing the menstrual hormones in serum samples collected from 17 healthy women with regular menses. Urine samples were collected three times per week during two consecutive cycles to measure the urinary steroid concentrations used in the ABP. The metabolite that was mostly affected by the menstrual phases was epitestosterone (E), where the median concentration was 133 % higher in the ovulation phase compared to the follicle phase (p < 0.0001). The women with a large coefficient of variation (CV) in their first cycle also had a large CV in their second cycle and vice versa. The inter-individual difference was extensive with a range of 11-230 % difference between the lowest and the highest T/E ratio during a cycle. In conclusion, E and ratios with E as denominator are problematic biomarkers for doping in female athletes. The timing of the sample collection in the menstrual cycle will have a large influence on the steroid profile. The results of this study highlight the need to find additional biomarkers for T doping in females.
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