A Russian news agency has released a statement saying that WNBA player Brittney Griner is being held at a Russian jail on drug charges. According to The New York Times, Griner was detained by the Russian Federal Customs Service after vape cartridges containing hashish oil were found in her luggage. A video from Customs showed a package being pulled out of the Phoenix Mercury player’s bag while at the Sheremetyevo airport back in February, implying that she has been in custody for some time.
The Customs Service released a statement saying that an American basketball player was in custody but unlike the Russian news agency TASS, they didn’t reveal the player’s name. They described the player as a two-time Olympic gold medal winner. Griner won two gold medals at the Olympics in 2016 and 2021.
“We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA,” her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said on March 5 according to the Associated Press. “As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.”
Griner has played basketball in Russia for the last seven winters, most recently playing for the UMMC Ekaterinburg in a Jan. 29 game.
The Times added that a criminal case has been opened against Griner and she is being held in custody during the investigation. If convicted, she can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison in Russia.
The Phoenix Mercury have said they will stick beside Griner during this difficult time.
“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 W.N.B.A. and N.B.A. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
USA Basketball, who oversees Olympics basketball, said in a statement via Twitter that they are keeping an eye on the situation.
“USA Basketball is aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia,” the statement read. “Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns.”