SI, JAN. 21, 2002 In SI's profile of then L.A. Kings defenseman Jere Karalahti, he spoke with little remorse of the drug use that had threatened his career. "I can't say I would never go back to drugs," said Karalahti, then 26. Seven months later Karalahti, whose hard-hitting style helped goose a Kings playoff run in 2000--01, left the NHL, returning to his native Finland after being suspended for violating the league's substance abuse program. Last month Karalahti, who until December had been playing in the Finnish Elite League, was arrested and charged with helping to finance the smuggling of four kilos of amphetamines into Finland. That amount was allegedly part of a larger operation run by a violent motorcycle gang, and according to coverage of Karalahti's trial in the Helsingin Sanomat prosecutors are seeking a six-year sentence for Karalahti, who has denied the charges.
Even before his NHL debut in 1999, Karalahti was convicted of heroin possession in Finland; he got probation and, he told SI in 2002, was forced at least temporarily to "make a choice between hockey and drugs." For Karalahti—who despite being on trial last week has drawn interest from a top Slovakian team—that choice has never been easy.