American basketball player Brittney Griner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury has been arrested and detained in Russia after the Russian Federal Customs Service reportedly found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage.
The Russian Customs Service said that the cartridges were identified as containing oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S., has played for Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason since 2014, earning over $1 million per season – more than quadruple her WNBA salary. She last played for UMMC Ekaterinburg on Jan. 29 before the league took a two-week break in early February for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.
According to the Russian Federal Customs Service statement, Griner was detained at Sheremetyevo Airport in February after arriving from New York.
On Saturday morning, Griner’s WNBA team – the Phoenix Mercury – released the following statement: “We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia. 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.”
USA Basketball also released a statement: “USA Basketball 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 wellbeing are our primary concerns.”
The news of Griner’s detainment comes as Russia continues to escalate its invasion of Ukraine.
More than a dozen WNBA players were playing in Russia and Ukraine this winter, including fellow UMMC Ekaterinburg players Jonquel Jones, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, and Breanna Stewart.
According to the WNBA, all other players other than Griner are out of Russia and Ukraine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story will continue to be updated.
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