WNBA Star Brittney Griner Held In Russia On Alleged ‘Drug Charges’

Brittney Griner held in Russia on alleged drug charges
WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner (photo: Lorie ShaullCC License)

Phoenix Mercury center and 7-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner has reportedly been held in Russia accused of ‘drug charges’ for weeks.

The New York Times reports the two-time Olympic gold medalist and out basketball star is accused of “large-scale transportation of drugs” which could result in a prison sentence of up to ten years.

A video clip released on Twitter reportedly shows her being stopped at a Russian airport by security agents.

From the New York Times:

The Russian Federal Customs Service said its officials had detained the player after finding vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow, and it released a video of a traveler going through airport security who appeared to be Griner.

Griner’s detention comes at the most dangerous moment in U.S.-Russia relations since the Cuban missile crisis, as the Biden administration leads dozens of nations in imposing crushing sanctions on Russia’s economy and its political elites.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Saturday that the sanctions were “akin to a declaration of war” against his country.

The Times adds that U.S. officials have accused Russia of detaining American citizens on “trumped-up charges” for years.

Considering the current conflict in Ukraine, and Putin’s anger against the U.S. for supplying aid to Ukraine, it’s difficult to ignore the idea that detaining a high-profile American athlete could possibly be used as leverage against the U.S. in the ongoing Ukraine invasion.

ManyWNBA players, including Griner, play for Russian teams during the U.S. league’s off-season due to the lucrative salaries. The Times reports she has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years.

The WNBA released a statement to USA Today saying, “Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, issued this statement on her Instagram on Saturday:

“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated. I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life.

“I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely. Thank you!”