Russia

WNBA’s Brittney Griner in Russian custody

Russian officials have detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, USA Basketball announced Saturday.

“USA Basketball is aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia,” the organization wrote. “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.”

Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was detained by the Russian Federal Customs Service for possession of vape cartridges containing hashish oil at Sheremetyevo airport, according a report from The New York Times.

The Customs Service said that its officials had detained a U.S. player who had won two Olympic gold medals, but did not release her name. Griner competed for the U.S. women’s basketball team in 2016 and 2021. 

Russian news agency TASS later reported that it was Griner after confirmation from law enforcement. 

The U.S. Department of State confirmed reports to The Hill, saying, “We are aware of reports of a U.S. citizen arrested in Moscow. Whenever a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services.”

The Customs Service said in its statement that it had opened a criminal case into the transportation of drugs and that the player had been detained amid an investigation.

Transportation of drugs in Russia can result in a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Griner, like many other WNBA players, competes in Russia during the off-season, where players can often obtain more lucrative contracts. Griner has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years, according to the Times.

The WNBA previously confirmed that it was “in contact with WNBA players who are in Russia, either directly or through their agents.”

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has shaken the sports world as Russian athletes in several sports have called for peace with Ukraine. 

Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin called for “no more war” with Ukraine following a practice in February. 

“Please, no more war. It doesn’t matter who is in the war — Russia, Ukraine, different countries — we have to live in peace,” he said at the time. 

The Hill has reached out to the WNBA and Mercury for comment. 

Updated at 12:25 p.m.

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