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TENNIS / LISA DILLMAN

When Dads Go Bad, the Next Generation

A Frenchman is accused of drugging a man who was playing his son. The man later died in a car crash, and the father might be prosecuted.

August 08, 2003|LISA DILLMAN

The tennis hall of shame -- parental unit -- may have just added a French wing to its pantheon.

How do you get to this annex?

Take a left at the Jim Pierce statue, another left at the Peter Graf collection and go down the long hall of the Damir Dokic special exhibition, which includes that productive year of 2000, a near Grand Slam, as the father of Jelena Dokic was banned from three of the four majors and the Olympics.

Now you had better get used to this name: Christophe Fauviau of Tercis-les-Bains, in southwestern France. This prospective entry in the hall of shame eventually could trump all of his flamboyant predecessors, 6-0, 6-0.

The 43-year-old father of two teenage tennis players is suspected of drugging the drinks of a son's opponents. He was arrested in the southwestern French town of Dax over the weekend but not formally charged, having been put under judicial investigation.

Authorities must decide whether he will be prosecuted on a charge of unintentionally causing death by administering a harmful substance. The man who died was a 25-year-old schoolteacher, Alexandre Lagardere, who was killed in a car crash on July 3. Traces of the antidepressant drug Temsta were found in his system.

Earlier in the day, Lagardere had played 16-year-old Maxime Fauviau, the older of Christophe's two tennis-playing children, and stopped after a set, citing fatigue, according to French press reports. Christophe Fauviau already had come under suspicion when another player reported spotting him tampering with the water bottle of one of Maxime's opponents at a tournament in late June.

The bottle tested positive for Temsta. Among the reported side effects of the drug is drowsiness.

Other opponents of Maxime were said to have felt overly tired.

This scandal already found itself a catchy name: Affaire Temsta.

Yet the more layers that are peeled back, the odder the case. These alleged activities of criminal parental interference did not occur at the top international levels of men's tennis or even at the elite ranks in France.

Maxime was merely a decent player at a regional level. His future was to be played out in places such as Biarritz, Toulouse and Bayonne, not in London, New York and Paris. In fact, he wasn't even the best prospect in the family. That distinction fell to his 13-year-old sister, Valentine, who has been playing International Tennis Federation events, most recently in the 18-and-under age group.

She is considered one of the top girls in France for her age, and, so far, there has been no suggestion that her father, a retired soldier, had tampered with any of her opponents' water bottles.

If the charges are brought, Fauviau would certainly move to the front of the line of tennis parents. During Wimbledon, the Daily Mirror compiled a list of the worst-behaved tennis parents in history, and the top three were Marinko Lucic, the father of Croatian Mirjana Lucic, Damir Dokic and Jim Pierce.

Dokic, who is no longer involved with Jelena's career, was tossed out of Wimbledon in 2000 after smashing a reporter's cellphone in a tirade on the balcony nearby the players' lounge and was ejected from the U.S. Open after loudly complaining about the price of salmon.

Tennis Australia has apparently tried to ease the heat on its younger players by attempting to keep parents from going to international junior events involving team competition, according to recent reports.

Sometimes, a few sharp words or a look from the player can stop parental interference, which, of course, is easier said than done. At the JPMorgan Chase Open in Carson on Thursday, Lindsay Davenport recalled when her father, Wink, let out a groan when she missed a shot during a junior match. Davenport thought she was 10 or 11 years old, but didn't forget sending him a glare, suggesting he leave immediately.

She said Wink did it again, years later, during the junior doubles final at the U.S. Open. Davenport, again, sent the message she didn't appreciate it. "He flew home the next day," she said.

Perhaps there is something to this not-seen-and-not-heard business. The most refreshing revelation of the day came when 14-year-old Viktoriya Kutuzova of Ukraine played her third match at Carson, in the biggest moment of her young career. This was her first WTA tournament and she came to Southern California with her father and coach, Valeriy Kutuzov.

And so, where was he? Hanging out in the front row of the Stadium Court? Sitting in the press room, demanding more coverage?

None of these places. The father and coach of young Viktoriya was not at the Home Depot Center, having stayed back at the hotel. He told her she knew what to do.

Good news, that. There's only so much room in that overcrowded hall of shame.

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