PARIS Just how far parents might go to help children reach the sporting elite has become shockingly evident in France with the arrest of a man on suspicion he spiked the drinks of his 16-year-old son's tennis rivals with a prescription drug.
One player died in a car wreck after apparently falling asleep while driving, and another was hospitalized for two days, investigators say. Police are trying to determine whether there were other victims.
Christophe Fauviau, 43, a retired soldier from Tercis-les-Bains in southwestern France, was arrested Saturday and placed under judicial investigation to determine whether he should be formally charged with unintentionally causing a death by administering toxic substances.
He is suspected of giving the anti-anxiety drug Temesta, which can cause drowsiness, to several opponents of his son, Maxime. Calls to the Fauviau home Wednesday and Thursday went unanswered.
The case is reminiscent of Houston's ''cheerleader mom,'' Wanda Holloway, who was charged in 1991 with trying to hire a hit man to kill the mother of her 13-year-old daughter's cheerleading rival. Holloway, who served six months in prison, hoped the grieving daughter would drop out of tryouts for the school cheerleading squad.
Suspicions about Christophe Fauviau arose at a tennis tournament June 28 when a player reported seeing Fauviau tamper with the player's water bottle just before his semifinal match with Maxime, police say. The player turned the bottle over to police, who say it tested positive for Temesta.
The next day, Maxime defeated another player in the tournament's final match. That player fell ill shortly after the match and required a two-day hospital stay, Capt. Christian Flagella, a police investigator in the town of Dax, said.
In another tournament July 3, Maxime defeated 25-year-old Alexandre Lagardere, a school teacher. Lagardere complained of fatigue after the match and took a nap at a friend's house near the stadium. He slept for two hours, then was driving home when he crashed his car and died.
Police believe Lagardere fell asleep at the wheel. Toxicology tests showed traces of Temesta in his system, which investigators suspect was administered by Fauviau.
The case has shocked many, especially in the tennis world.
''It is unparalleled, scandalous,'' Thierry Pham, a member of the French Tennis Federation technical committee, said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Pham said he was particularly puzzled because Maxime is not considered champion material. ''He was not part of the tennis elite for his age, which makes it even the more bizarre. He was just a good, local player.''
It is Fauviau's 13-year-old daughter, Valentine, who is seen as her family's great tennis hope.
''She is one of the best players in the country in her age group,'' Pham said. ''For her it is very sad, because she will have to suffer pressure in her career because of what her father did.''
Fauviau is not accused of drugging any of his daughter's opponents, but Pham said he recently clashed with the tennis federation over what is best for her career.
''He became known to us because of his daughter,'' Pham said. ''He refused to let her join a tennis school in Toulouse and refused to allow her to play for the junior national team this summer.''
Despite the doping allegations, the tennis federation is not planning extra security measures at local or national tournaments.
''It would be a bit sad if we had to start putting water in a safe with locks and a key,'' Pham said. ''It's not right to change rules because of an isolated incident.''
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