Obsessive father jailed for tennis player's death

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The Independent Online

A father was jailed for eight years by a French court yesterday for drugging his children's tennis rivals, accidentally causing the death of a young man.

The court heard how Christophe Fauviau, 46, of Dax in south-western France, became so obsessed with the tennis careers of his teenage children that he placed tranquilising drugs in their opponents' drinks. He was found guilty of "premeditated administration of a harmful substance that caused death without intention to do so".

M. Fauviau, a retired army helicopter pilot, told the court that he had come to live entirely for the tennis triumphs of his son and daughter. Unsuccessful in his own life, he could not abide to see his children lose. His stress at watching a match became so great that he put drugs in their opponents' drink as a way of calming himself.

On 3 July 2003, Alexandre Lagardère, 25, a primary school teacher, crashed his car into a tree and was killed. A few hours earlier, he had lost a match against M. Fauviau's son Maxime. An autopsy showed that he had taken Temesta, an anti-depressant drug, prescribed to M. Fauviau.

In a tearful final statement to the court after a five day trial, M, Fauviau begged for forgiveness: "I would like to say to you that I did not think for a single second of hurting people. I am responsible for Alexandre's accident. I will always carry that with me," he said.

The court heard that 26 other opponents had been doped by M. Fauviau. Several were forced to abandon games through sudden bouts of sickness or extreme exhaustion.

There is no suggestion that M. Fauviau's children knew what he was doing. His daughter, Valentine, now 15, has gone on to have an extremely successful junior tennis career and is regarded as one of the best prospects in France. His son, Maxime, now 18, was always an average player.

M. Fauviau had risked up to 20 years imprisonment. The public prosecutor asked for between 8 and 10 years on the grounds that he had been a good soldier and had not intended to cause permanent harm to his victims. The prosecutor, Serge Mackowiack, said M. Fauviau was an "adult who turned his children into objects of his own fantasies of success".

"Nothing stopped you," he told M. Fauviau. "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."

Earlier M. Fauviau said he had become so tortured by watching his children play that he came to regard drugging their opponents as a way of treating his own nerves: "I could no longer cope. I had come to hate the sport ... Every match became a terrible anguish. I became convinced that I was being judged permanently by the success or failure of my children."

By slipping his anti-anxiety pills into the drink of opponents, or offering them bottles of spiked Coca-cola, "it was as if I was treating myself", he said.

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