Man who drugged child's tennis foes faces verdict

Updated: March 8, 2006, 5:54 PM ET
Associated Press

BORDEAUX, France -- A man accused of drugging his children's tennis opponents, leading to one player's accidental death, described being gripped by panic and anguish as his desire to see his son and daughter succeed spun out of control.

Judges expect to reach a verdict Thursday in the trial of Christophe Fauviau of Mont-de-Marsan in southwestern France. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of unintentionally causing a death by administering toxic substances.

In tearful testimony, Fauviau asked the parents of the victim, 25-year-old Alexandre Lagardere, for forgiveness.

"It's something that completely took me over, and I couldn't imagine that I could be responsible for the death of your son," Fauviau, a former military pilot, told the court last week. "I never wanted things to come out like this."

Fauviau's 16-year-old daughter, Valentine, is considered a rising star in French tennis, and he recalled disputes with the French Tennis League, whom he accused of not paying enough attention to her "enormous potential."

"Each match was a terrible anguish," he said. He said he began taking the anti-anxiety drug Temesta, which he allegedly used against his children's opponents.

"I completely lost reason. I took Temesta myself. To put it in the bottles became a habit that I wasn't aware of. I never considered that in doing this, I could hurt someone," he said.

Fauviau, 46, is accused of spiking the water bottles of his children's opponents 27 times in tournaments from 2000 to 2003, using Temesta, which can cause drowsiness.

The opponents complained to investigators of weakness, dizziness, nausea or fainting. Several were hospitalized.

In July 2003, Fauviau's son, Maxime, defeated Lagardere, who complained of fatigue after the match and slept for two hours. While driving home later, Lagardere crashed his car and was killed, and police believe he fell asleep at the wheel. Toxicology tests showed traces of Temesta in his system, allegedly delivered by Fauviau.

The story began to unfold at a minor tennis tournament a month earlier, when a player allegedly saw Christophe Fauviau tampering with his water bottle before a match against Maxime. The player gave the bottle to police, and it tested positive for Temesta.

Valentine Fauviau cast doubt on the accusations against her father.

"Tired girls, yes, I saw them. But nothing more than that," she told the court, according to French newspapers. "I never needed anyone to help me win."

Her brother was more blunt.

"He blew a gasket and didn't calculate all the consequences. He's too involved in tennis," Maxime Fauviau told the court, according to Le Parisien.

Fauviau's wife, Catherine, said she had no idea whether he was involved in drugging players.

"If I had, it would have been suitcases or the psychiatrist," she was quoted in Le Parisien as saying.

Fauviau, a former helicopter pilot instructor for the French army, has been in custody pending trial since his arrest in August 2003.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press