One of the biggest names in basketball is staring at up to 10 years in a Russian prison after she was arrested at a Moscow airport.
WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic champion Brittney Griner faces 5 to 10 years in Russian prison, after she was arrested on drug smuggling charges when she was found with vape cartridges in her carry-on luggage at a Moscow airport, according to Russian news sources.
Her team, the Phoenix Mercury, confirmed a “situation in Russia” without mentioning specifics. “We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia,” the team said in a statement.
“We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
Russia’s Interfax news agency said a female US basketball player was arrested in February, at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow after arriving on a flight from New York.
It did not specify when Griner was arrested, but her Team USA teammate Angel McCoughtry tweeted that she’s been held for three weeks.
A drug-sniffing dog indicated narcotics in luggage, and when the bag was X-rayed, “so-called ‘vapes’” were discovered “with a specific odour,” according to Interfax, which cited the Russian Federal Customs Service.
“The expert found that the liquid is a narcotic drug cannabis oil (hashish oil),” Interax said.
The independent Russian news website identified the player as Griner.
Interfax said she was detained as a “preventive measure” against drug trafficking.
An edited video of what appears to be moments surrounding her arrest was posted to Twitter.
In the clip, Griner places a wheeled suitcase into an airport screener, then a man going through a suitcase on a table on the opposite side of the screening machine.
The man is next shown rifling through paperwork set on the table, with Griner sitting next to him on the table, her back to the camera. She appears to sign some forms before the clip ends.
Griner hasn’t posted on her Instagram account since Feb. 5.
Calls to her wife, Cherelle Watson Griner, and her parents, Sandra and Raymond Griner, were not immediately returned.
USA Basketball said in a statement that it is “aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia.”
“Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and well being are our primary concerns,” the organisation said.
Griner, 31, a member of the 2014 WNBA Champion Mercury and the 2021 and 2016 Olympics gold medal team, has played during the WNBA off-season for the Russian team Ekaterinburg in the Euroleague since 2015.
This article was originally published by the New York Post and reproduced with permission
Originally published as American basketball superstar arrested in Russia