Harding moved to a town in Washington, just across the river from Portland, after her probation ended in 1997, and attempted to return to skating—this time as a professional, which skirted the USFSA ban—in October of 1999. She competed in the ESPN Professional Skating Championships in Huntington, West Virginia, but fell twice in her program. She finished in second place overall, earning polite applause from the crowd each time. Yet even on the professional circuit, Harding was cold-shouldered by other skaters, and claimed to have been blackballed entirely in the sport.
Harding's troubles with the law had not ended. In February of 2000 she was arrested on assault charges filed by her then-boyfriend, who claimed she hit him with a hubcap. There were two witnesses to the incident, and Harding entered a not-guilty plea, claiming she meant to hit his motorcycle. She served three days in jail and ten days on a work crew.
In March of 2002 Harding appeared on another Fox special, Celebrity Boxing, sparring with Paula Jones, the Arkansas woman who accused a then-Governor Bill Clinton of sexual harassment on the job. Again, she reentered the public consciousness as the butt of jokes, a figure who seemed to cling to her notorious celebrity for lack of any other viable career plan. Harding remains the sole skater ever to be implicated in a physical attack on a competitor, and though the incident seems tragiccomic in retrospect, it did serve to unmask a more vicious side of women's figure skating—less a sport, some pundits note, than a telegenically-driven competition for endorsement dollars.