What to do with dangerous answers?

From this question, a topic for discussion. A few points that I can see that would be problematic:

  1. Not illegal everywhere - Examples are marijuana and a few other recreational drugs that are legal in some countries, yet still banned for competition
  2. Legal PED's - Examples - Caffeine and asthma drugs - Legal for use and for competition without any exemptions (Although caffeine does have an upper threshold)
  3. Legal with a TUE - Therapeutic Use Exemptions allow for usage of otherwise illegal drugs. Certain steroids (Such as testosterone) can be legal if it is medically proven that it is necessary for quality of life. There are others that are also illegal without the TUE.

It is somewhat of a slippery slope but as can be seen by the almost immediate reaction from the Oprah interview of Lance Armstrong that aired last night (01/18/13 for reference), people will be coming here looking for information, so it might be better to hash out the "preferred" method of handling the questions and answers such as "It's all bunk, the only way to get huge is steroids" and similar.

Dang it, I was working on this question... –  Nathan Wheeler Jan 18 '13 at 18:13
I guess I'll just copy my work into an answer instead :) –  Nathan Wheeler Jan 18 '13 at 18:14
Heh. GMTA, I suppose. Put up yours as an answer as well, it's always good to have a few different ideas. ETA: We are channeling each other, that's scary. –  JohnP Jan 18 '13 at 18:14
This question should be sticky on the bulletin, too. –  Baarn Jan 18 '13 at 19:04
I removed the "illegal" qualifier from your title based on what you brought up in your question body. Those are all valid point to discuss for putting in the faq. –  Matt Chan Jan 18 '13 at 19:50

5 Answers 5

No Drug use should not be specifically addressed by FAQ or policy.

I don't understand why we have to police and censor the site and squelch discussion of substances just because they are banned under certain regional laws or sport authority policies. We should allow fair questions and answers about these substances and upvote those that provide a balanced and objective view. If substance X is illegal and unhealthy but will help performance, why not say so, answering with both the positive and negative aspects? Examining the issue is not the same thing as endorsing it.

Examination versus endorsement also will set the tone for the site and future visitors. If we decide to accept such questions, they should also service the purpose of providing high-quality information and make the site better. –  Matt Chan Jan 19 '13 at 3:10
Are we able to give balanced and objective views on drugs? Fitness & Nutrition was changed to Physical Fitness and nutrition was excluded from the scope because of lack of experts and interest, do we have enough drug experts and interest? –  Baarn Jan 19 '13 at 11:04

Is it really a problem that needs to be addressed in the FAQ? I think we can just allow them to come in for while longer and answer/ignore/upvote/downvote them.

I don't think we have enough data to make good decisions about this aspect of our scope.

The body does not care what is legal and what is illegal. Moreover, PEDs are not illegal everywhere. I agree that a site full of "hey, I was planning this roid cycle, what do you think?" would make the site worse. (And the world already has those kinds of sites.) But that isn't the site we have right now. The site has mechanisms in place for handling politically fraught topics: a voting system. –  masonk Jan 18 '13 at 19:27
Having such an item stamped out in the faq would at least convey a consensus on the issue otherwise we'll just have endless debates on meta about it. We had a lot of discussions in the past regarding medical-related topics and nutrition. –  Matt Chan Jan 18 '13 at 19:34
@masonk - It's a fine line. PED's are illegal in any sport that is a WADA/IOC signatory. I suppose you are technically correct that in certain countries there are PED's that are legal. So then, what do you suggest for a person who lives in a country where testosterone is legal to use, but not legal for competitive purposes? –  JohnP Jan 18 '13 at 20:20
@MattChan If we're having endless debates, then there isn't consensus. I don't think the FAQ should convey a consensus that doesn't exist. –  Kate Jan 18 '13 at 20:30
I wasn't suggesting putting it in the faq right away, but I do want to see some stance on the issue. We went through the same thing for a long time with nutrition since we first launched. That is the purpose of having this discussion on meta. –  Matt Chan Jan 19 '13 at 2:43
On bigger sites with a more solid userbase it might be possible to regulate by up and downvoting, but on our site the crappy answer gets 3 upvotes and is accepted. –  Baarn Jan 19 '13 at 11:05

We've had some discussion on this before, but never really any good resolution or decision made:

Should we allow academic questions about drug use and other obviously poor health choices?

I propose that we amend the FAQ to make questions about illegal, potentially illegal, or banned-from-competition performance-enhancing substances off-topic. I don't see that this would necessarily need to include recreational drugs, but questions about recreational drugs would typically be off-topic anyway.

With the new year, we're of course going to see an up-swing in traffic as people try to find new, creative ways to fulfill their new year's resolution of weight loss and fitness, and I think it's a great time to review some of our questions and answers and see if we can make this an even more awesome place for people to get the information they need. By eliminating some of the noise, we can help people find what they're looking for more effectively.

I don't know if you could make it completely off topic though. I can see legitimate questions about illegal drugs. Use testosterone as an example. Under the WADA code, if you can prove that you have a true medical case of hypogonadism, backed up by tests/doctors/history, then you can legally take testosterone and still compete. I think we need to address more the tone of the question. So, questions like "How do I get and use testosterone to get bigger" would be OT, but "I have hypogonadism, can I still compete with testosterone supplementation" would be ok. –  JohnP Jan 18 '13 at 18:27
But then questions about it either fall under medical advice, or the rules of a sport. The "rules of a sport" questions are already off-topic as per the FAQ –  Nathan Wheeler Jan 18 '13 at 18:30
Oh yeah. Duh. I forgot that, mea culpa. Ok, disregard. –  JohnP Jan 18 '13 at 18:32
Can you stop figuring out in comments, what I was writing in my answer? Please!?! ;) –  Baarn Jan 18 '13 at 18:38
How do you draw the line about "potential" illegality? –  Kate Jan 18 '13 at 18:46
@Kate - Usage banned in competition is a pretty good guideline, non-recreational and illegal in the US is another good way to weed them out. –  Nathan Wheeler Jan 18 '13 at 19:47
@NathanWheeler, I think the US test would be too US-centric. Our audience is worldwide. –  Kate Jan 18 '13 at 19:49
I haven't done research into this but what about the policies set for the Olympics or by the World Anti-Doping Agency? –  Matt Chan Jan 18 '13 at 19:52
@MattChan - The main thing is that I don't want someone to have to read some sporting rule book in order to ask a question. I also don't want to have to list out the specific substances we don't discuss. Which is why I like the wording "performance enhancing substances that are illegal, potentially illegal, or banned from competition". –  Nathan Wheeler Jan 18 '13 at 19:55
@NathanWheeler This is why I like the simple option. Just allow the questions to come in, and let the community decide case-by-case whether or not they're actually fitness related. –  Kate Jan 18 '13 at 19:59

We could draw a line between fitness and performance. Fitness related question? On-topic. Performance related question? Off-topic.

I don't really see how to distinguish between fitness and performance. I measure increase of fitness by increase of performance. –  Baarn Jan 18 '13 at 19:14
"I've been running for the past 6 months, and I've brought my 5k time from 25 minutes to 20 minutes, but now I've stalled in improvement. Here's my schedule {blah blah}, how can I structure my workouts to get faster?" –  JohnP Jan 18 '13 at 19:14
Except, using EPO to improve performance may have nothing to do with improving your fitness. So, while most performance questions would be on topic, the PED questions are likely not related to fitness, so could be off-topic for that reason. –  Kate Jan 18 '13 at 19:22
Ah I get what you mean now. I like the idea but I think that it isn't easy to communicate such a rule to new users. –  Baarn Jan 18 '13 at 19:30

I think all questions related to drugs that are banned from competition should be off topic here. The problem is we would not only risk receiving a lot of questions about them if we allow them, but also answer that promote the "easy way out" instead of real training suggestions.

As already pointed out in the comments, legal use of illegal substances would already be off topic as it would count as medical advice.

Recreational drug use can be OK if the context of the question is OK. I think we can rely on the current voting mechanism for quality control here.

Questions about recreational drug use can be on-topic for a fitness site? How so? –  Kate Jan 18 '13 at 18:47
I was thinking about caffeine, tobacco and alcohol here, although I only see potentially 'good' questions for the first one (and I am biased there as I have asked a caffeine related question). –  Baarn Jan 18 '13 at 18:49
So, the OK questions would be questions about their use in relation to fitness, not about the use of the drug in general, right? If so, why would questions about the effect of illegal substances in relation to fitness be off-topic? Or, what about drugs that are both illegal and recreational? –  Kate Jan 18 '13 at 18:51
As all question on this site have to relate to fitness (or achieving some physique) all questions not related to that would be already off topic. Why should questions about illegal substances be off topic? Simply because I think it attracts people that I don't want here and I would be fine without questions about drugs. Actually I would be far more comfortable without them. –  Baarn Jan 18 '13 at 18:58
There may be a good reason for this scope clarification, but I don't think that us not wanting a certain category of people here is one of them. –  Kate Jan 18 '13 at 19:43
Another slippery slope... banned from which competition? –  Greg Jan 18 '13 at 21:05
Why should drugs that are banned from competition be off-topic if the asker doesn't participate in competitions? –  Mew Jan 18 '13 at 23:20
@Greg no idea, I don't watch sports on TV and have no idea about actual drug regulations, but I think the WADA's list as Matt suggested would be a good starting point. –  Baarn Jan 19 '13 at 11:07

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