Plasticizers excreted in urine: indication of autologous blood transfusion in sports

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Misuse of autologous blood transfusions in sports remains undetectable. The metabolites of the plasticizer di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) were recently proposed as markers of blood transfusion, based on high urinary concentrations of these compounds observed in patients subjected to blood transfusion. This study evaluates DEHP metabolites in urine for detecting autologous blood transfusion.


One blood bag was drawn from moderately trained subjects and the red blood cells (RBCs) were reinfused after different storage periods. Group 1 (12 subjects) was reinfused after 14 days, and Group 2 (13 subjects), after 28 days of storage. Urine samples were collected before and after reinfusion for determination of the concentrations of three DEHP metabolites, mono-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, mono-(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl)phthalate, and mono-(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl)phthalate.


Concentrations of DEHP metabolites on the days before reinfusion were in agreement with those described after common environmental exposure. A few hours after the reinfusion a significant increase was observed for all metabolites in all volunteers. Concentrations 1 day later were still higher (p < 0.05) than before reinfusion. Variations in urine dilution supported normalization by specific gravity. Concentrations of DEHP metabolites tended to be higher after longer storage times of RBCs.


Autologous transfusion with RBCs stored in plastic bags provokes an acute increase in the urinary concentrations of DEHP metabolites, allowing the detection of this doping malpractice. The window of detection is approximately 2 days. The method might be applied to urine samples submitted for antidoping testing.

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