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WNBA player Brittney Griner is being detained in Russia after officials found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
The New York Times reported Saturday that the Russian Federal Customs Service released video of an individual that appears to be the 6-foot-9 Griner going through airport security after the Russian agency said it searched luggage believed to belong to her and found vape cartridges that contained oil derived from cannabis.
The video shows an individual removing a package from the traveler’s bag. The Times reports the screening at the airport occurred in February per the officials, raising the possibility that Griner has been in custody for at least several days.
A criminal case has been opened into the large-scale transportation of drugs, which can carry a sentence of up to 10 years behind bars in Russia. The Times reports that in recent years, Russia has detained and sentenced American citizens on what U.S. officials often say are trumped-up charges.
“The arrest of a high-profile American could be seen as Russia’s attempting to create leverage for a potential prisoner exchange with the American government or a reduction in sanctions related to the invasion,” NYT’s Jonathan Abrams reports.
ESPN reports that Griner was not mentioned by name, the customs service identified the detained person as a player for the U.S. women’s team and did not specify the date of her arrest.
“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,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas told ESPN on Saturday. “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.”
Like many WNBA players, 31-year-old Griner has long played overseas in the winter months, most recently in Russia, in the WNBA’s offseason.
The WNBA Players Association also released a statement regarding Griner’s situation.
“We are aware of the situation in Russia concerning one of our members, Brittney Griner. Our utmost concern is BG’s safety and well-being,” the WNBA Players’ union said. “On behalf of The 144, we send our love and support. We will continue to closely monitor and look forward to her return to the U.S.”
USA Basketball said in a Saturday statement, “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.”
WNBA players in Russia have been leaving the country in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine over the past week, and ESPN reports a WNBA spokesperson said Saturday that other than Griner, all of the league’s players who were competing in either Russia or Ukraine this winter are now out of those countries.
Griner played nine seasons with the Phoenix Mercury, who lost in the WNBA Finals in October to Chicago, and she won a championship with the Mercury in 2014. The center won gold medals with Team USA in the Olympics in 2016 and 2021.
The Mercury released a statement Saturday regarding the situation.
“We are aware and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia,” the statement said. “We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Britney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States,” the league said in a statement to ESPN.
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