WNBA player detained by Russia, citing drug paraphernalia: report

March 5, 2022, 7:20 PM UTC

WNBA player and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner was detained and taken into custody in Russia last month after she was said to have drug paraphernalia in her luggage at an airport in Moscow, the New York Times reported Saturday.

A criminal case has been opened and the investigation is ongoing. 

Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury, said Saturday in a 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 W.N.B.A. and N.B.A.”

Vape cartridges were allegedly discovered, the Associated Press reported Saturday, adding that they contained oil derived from cannabis, according to the Russian Customs Service.

Griner faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, according to the AP.

The U.S. State Department on Saturday updated an earlier travel advisory, recommending that U.S. citizens leave Russia immediately.

The notice offers this guidance: “If you wish to depart Russia, you should make arrangements on your own as soon as possible. If you plan to stay in Russia, understand the U.S. Embassy has severe limitations on its ability to assist U.S. citizens, and conditions, including transportation options, may change suddenly.”

The department already has advised Americans not to travel to Russia. That warning cites “the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine” and “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials,” among other things.

Griner, 31, plays for the WNBA Phoenix Mercury and has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S. She has played in Russia for the last seven years in the winter, making more than $1 million per season, which is more than quadruple her WNBA salary. She played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg on Jan. 29 before the league took a two-week break, according to the Associated Press.

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