Father convicted of drugging kids' tennis foes
MONT-DE-MARSAN, France -- A father who drugged his children's tennis opponents, leading to one player's death, was sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted Thursday.
Christophe Fauviau had confessed to the crime. Before jurors began their two hours of deliberation, the retired soldier told the court that he was responsible for Alexandre Lagardere's death and that "I'll always carry that with me."
"Not for one second did I think of hurting people. I realize now that I did," the 46-year-old former military pilot said.
Lagardere's father, Bernard, refused to comment on the verdict, but asked that the Fauviau family remember "that in our house, there will always be someone missing."
Fauviau was accused of spiking the water bottles of his children's opponents 27 times in tournaments across France from 2000 to 2003, using the anti-anxiety drug Temesta, which can cause drowsiness.
The case illustrated the darker side of some parents' attempts to help their children achieve athletic success.
Prosecutor Serge Mackowiack had asked for eight to 10 years imprisonment -- below the 20 years maximum for the charge of unintentionally causing death by administering toxic substances. In asking for the lighter sentence, Mackowiack said Fauviau had been a good soldier and said he did not seek to kill or injure the players.
Still, the prosecutor described Fauviau as "an adult who turned his children into objects of his own fantasies of success" and whose actions were premeditated.
"Nothing stopped you: Players collapsing on the court, the sight of stretchers, of an 11-year-old girl, a young woman who collapses against a fence. Nothing stopped you," Mackowiack told the court in Mont-de-Marsan in southwestern France.
Fauviau's 16-year-old daughter Valentine is a rising star in French tennis. His son Maxime also played.
In tearful earlier testimony, Fauviau asked Lagardere's parents 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," he told the court last week. "I never wanted things to come out like this."
Opponents of Fauviau's children complained to investigators of various ills: weak knees, dizziness, nausea or fainting. Several were hospitalized.
In July 2003, Maxime Fauviau defeated Lagardere, who complained of fatigue after the match and slept for two hours. While driving home, the 25-year-old school teacher crashed his car and died, and police believe he fell asleep at the wheel. Toxicology tests showed traces of Temesta in his system, delivered by Christophe Fauviau.
Fauviau, a former helicopter pilot instructor for the French army, had been in custody pending trial since his arrest in August 2003.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press