Father 'drugged child tennis rivals'

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A retired soldier has gone on trial in south-west France for allegedly drugging his children's tennis rivals to worsen their game, leading to the death of one player.

Christophe Fauviau, 46, appeared in court in the town of Mont-de-Marsan on charges of unintentionally causing a death by administering toxic substances.

M. Fauviau, whose 15-year-old daughter, Valentine, is considered a rising star of French tennis, is accused of drugging his children's opponents 27 times in tournaments across France from 2000 to 2003.

Prosecutors point to evidence they say shows that M. Fauviau drugged 21 opponents of Valentine and six others faced by his son, Maxime - at times using the anti-anxiety drug Temesta, which can cause drowsiness.

In the investigation, all of those opponents complained of various ills during the matches: weak knees, dizziness, nausea or fainting. Several were hospitalised.

In July 2003, Maxime Fauviau defeated 25-year-old Alexandre Lagardère, a local primary school teacher. M. Lagardère complained of fatigue after the match and slept for two hours. While driving home, he crashed his car and died. Police believe he fell asleep at the wheel. Toxicology tests showed traces of Temesta in his system - allegedly delivered by M. Fauviau.

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

M. Fauviau, a former helicopter pilot instructor for the French army, has been in custody pending trial since his arrest in August 2003. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The verdict is expected 10 March.