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Father convicted of drugging kids' tennis foes

3/9/2006 - Tennis

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.