Retired Olympian spared jail over drugs

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A former Olympic cyclist caught growing cannabis worth £24,000 has avoided a jail sentence.

Darryl Webster, of Pencader, near Carmarthen, west Wales, was known for his opposition to drug use in cycling during his heyday.

But after retiring from the sport he said he struggled to cope with depression and began using cannabis.

Last year, police discovered 37 cannabis plants split between his home and his partner’s vacant address along with “sophisticated” growing equipment.

But the 50-year-old told Swansea Crown Court the plants were all for his own personal use.

He said: “I’ve been consuming cannabis to deal with my anxiety and stress.

“I have had lots of negative experiences with anti-depressants in the past which left me scared and suicidal.”

Webster made a name for himself in the early 1980s, riding for Great Britain at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

However, he told a judge that his father’s death, his divorce and his retirement from the sport had sent him on a downward spiral.

“Taking cannabis was the way that best suited me (in addressing these),” he said.

“I started using it in around 2001. Why was I growing it? I did not actually know anyone to purchase it from and did not want to get involved with that.”

Webster said that on a typical day he used around “half an ounce” of the class B drug, with his preferred method seeing him use a vaporiser.

Officers found 28 plants at his partner’s address and nine larger ones in the cellar of his home – capable of making a total of 2.8kg of cannabis.

He had admitted growing cannabis, but had denied intending to supply – something contested by the prosecution barrister, Catherine Richards.

But Recorder Mr Aubrey said: “While the number of plants was substantial, I accept that they were being cultivated for your own use.”

Unemployed Webster – who said he had been drug free for 12 months – was handed a three-year community order and must carry out 300 hours of unpaid work.