- Associated Press - Monday, August 16, 2010

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Former U.S. figure skating champion Nicole Bobek was ordered to spend five years on probation for her role in a New Jersey methamphetamine ring, a sentence that she said would give her a chance to get her life back on track.

“Nothing but positive things can come out of this,” Bobek said outside the Jersey City courtroom where she was sentenced Monday. “It’s been a long 1½ years. I’m looking to get back onto that ice.”

The 32-year-old pleaded guilty in June to a charge of conspiring to distribute crystal meth. She was among 28 people accused last year of running a network that allegedly distributed $10,000 worth of methamphetamine per week.

The alleged leader of the group, Edward Cruz Jr., was sentenced last week to 16 years in prison.

Bobek won the U.S. figure skating title in 1995. But her disappointing 17th-place finish at the 1998 Winter Olympics took a psychological toll on her, according to her lawyer, Sam DeLuca. Bobek had been skating since age 3, forgoing high school and even home schooling for the rigorous, cloistered world of professional training, Mr. DeLuca said.

“Here is girl whose start was shining … and when the star went out, when the star started fading, she was not prepared,” Mr. DeLuca said. She then fell into “a sleazy world” of drug addiction and bad influences, he said.

Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Ledoux argued for a sentence of a year in jail, saying Bobek was no innocent victim and was not a minor player in the drug ring.

Bobek, wearing a black-and-white dress and her blond hair in a french twist, choked up as she spoke of how sorry she was during sentencing, telling the judge that she was off drugs, holding a job and teaching children at the Special Olympics.

“I believe I can help others. I plan to change my life around and do something with it,” she said.

Superior Court Judge Kevin Callahan noted he had received letters on Bobek’s behalf from former Olympic athletes, including JoJo Starbuck, and even rock ‘n’ roll musicians he didn’t name.

Judge Callahan warned Bobek that she was at a dangerous crossroads and that a single parole violation or failed drug test could land her in prison for at least five years.

Bobek, accompanied by her mother, applied to serve her probation near the family’s Jupiter, Fla., home. She also was ordered to serve 250 hours of community service and pay a $2,500 fine, plus additional court expenses.