A BODY-BUILDER was caught with thousands of anabolic steroids which he sold to other muscle-men at his gym, a court heard yesterday.
Former national Thai boxing champion Stephen Cowlam made hundreds of pounds a month from his illegal trade in the pills from the internet.
Cowlam, 50, from Darlington, dodged jail when a judge at Teesside Crown Court heard that he looked after his son and his two step-children.
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He was given an eight-month prison sentence, which was suspended for two years, and was ordered to carry out 140 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, told him: "It is in the public interest you should be allowed to continue your employment and put something back into the community."
The court heard how police raided Cowlam's home in Rockwell Avenue in July last year and found 17,500 pills worth more than £13,500.
Cowlam initially claimed the drugs were all for himself, but later admitted supplying them to a dozen others who were "established" users.
Stephen Welford, mitigating, said the production line worker's finances were "tight" and "he took the opportunity to earn some little profit".
Mr Welford said Cowlam had been asked by others who used the same gym if he could supply them steroids because he was well-known.
"If he were to lose his liberty, he would lose his employment and he would lose his accommodation," Mr Welford told Judge Bourne-Arton.
"Not only that, his 20-year-old son, who he has had sole custody for since he was seven, would lose his accommodation, and that is at the forefront of his mind.
"He is fit, he is strong, he can do something worthwhile for the commission of these offences. That can be positive, whereas immediate custody would have a detrimental effect."
Mr Welford added: "He has always been a man who trains and involves himself in some sort of fitness regime or another.
"Ten years ago he boxed, and won the British heavyweight Thai boxing title, and having done that he retired.
"Having seen himself on television and because he disliked his appearance, he started weightlifting.
"He felt he looked overweight and flabby, and somewhat repulsive, and decided to address that by turning to anabolic steroid use."
Cowlam admitted charges of possessing Class C drugs with intent to supply, and supplying Class C drugs.