Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner faces charges of drug smuggling in Russia after being detained at a Moscow airport, multiple outlets reported Saturday.
The Russian Federal Customs Service confirmed that an American basketball player was taken into custody after officials found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in carry-on luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport in February.
The Russian news agency TASS, citing a law enforcement source, identified the player as Griner, 31.
Faces 10-Year Sentence
A seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Griner could face a sentence of up to 10 years in a Russian prison if convicted.
“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia,” the Mercury 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.”
A WNBA spokesperson said the following to USA Today:
“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”
USA Basketball said it is closely monitoring Griner’s legal situation.
“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,” USA Basketball posted on Twitter.
Concern For Griner’s Safety
The WNBA’s players association also expressed concern for her safety.
“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 WNBPA statement 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.”
Griner has played for a Russian professional team during the WNBA’s offseason since 2015.
Her detainment occurs at a time of heightened tensions between Russia and the United States, created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)