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Former U.S. champion arrested on drug charges

Bobek caught up in New Jersey methamphetamine probe

Former U.S. champion Nicole Bobek on the ice in 1998.
Former U.S. champion Nicole Bobek on the ice in 1998. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/06/2009) - Former U.S. champion Nicole Bobek has been charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, the Jersey Journal reported Monday.

Working with the Bayonne, New Jersey, police force, the Hudson County prosecutor's office announced it had uncovered a distribution network selling $10,000 worth of the drug each week. The 31-year-old Bobek was one of more than a dozen people arrested.

"She played a significant role in this operation," Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio is quoted as saying. "She was actively involved in the upper echelon of this ring."

A long-legged, blue-eyed blonde, Bobek was something of a bombshell on the ice, exuding charisma and playful elegance. Her signature move, a stunning, fully extended spiral, is widely credited with inspiring other skaters of her generation to improve their spiral sequences.

In 1995, Bobek won the U.S. title, upsetting the favored Michelle Kwan. She went on to capture the bronze medal at the 1995 World Championships.

Even with this success, there were rumblings: Bobek's coach that season, Richard Callaghan, was the latest in a seemingly countless series, and prior to the U.S. Championships, she was charged with stealing money from a friend's house. After legal maneuvering, she was eventually granted a probation discharge.

"I guess you could say I'm a free spirit," Bobek said around that time.

Bobek never repeated her 1995 success. The following season, she withdrew from the U.S. Championships with an injury and was not granted a bye to worlds. In 1997, she won the U.S. bronze medal and competed at worlds, placing 13th after another of her coaches, Carlo Fassi, died at the championships.

In 1998, she repeated as U.S. bronze medalist and won an Olympic spot behind Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski, finishing 17th after two disastrous programs. That fall, she returned to Callaghan's tutelage. She competed well on the Grand Prix circuit, but injury again forced her to withdraw from the U.S. Championships.

As a professional, Bobek was a longtime performer on the Champions on Ice tour as well as many made-for-TV skating competitions and shows. She even made a foray into acting, appearing in the Sean Penn film All the King's Men in 2006.

As reported in the Jersey Journal, the Chicago-born Bobek, who has homes in Florida and New York City, was arrested in Florida as a fugitive from justice based on the charges filed in Hudson County. Bobek did not fight extradition and was brought to New Jersey last Thursday by officers of the Hudson County Sheriffs office. She is being held at the jail on a $200,000 cash or bond bail and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

Update: Bobek was released Tuesday on $200,000 bond after pleading not guilty in a New Jersey court to a drug conspiracy charge, the prosecutor's office confirmed.