Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has been detained by the Russian Federal Customs Service after vape cartridges containing a narcotic were allegedly found in her luggage upon landing at Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow, the New York Times and USA Today reported Saturday.
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner competes in Game Four of the 2021 WNBA semifinals at … [+] Footprint Center on October 06, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Russian Federal Customs Service said it detained a “professional basketball player, a member of the US National Basketball Association, a two-time Olympic basketball champion in the US team” – whom the Russian news agency TASS identified, citing sources, as Griner.
Customs officers identified vapes containing a liquid in a U.S. citizen’s luggage that turned out to be “cannabis oil (hash oil), which is a narcotic substance,” USA Today reported.
In Russia, transporting drugs could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, and a criminal case has been opened into Griner’s case, the Times reported.
Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas said in a statement to Forbes, “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.”
USA Basketball tweeted Saturday it is “aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation” Griner is facing in Russia, adding that her safety is its primary concern.
The U.S. State Department issued a warning Saturday for Americans to leave Russia “immediately,” and urged them not to travel there, warning of potential harassment by Russian security officials and arbitrary enforcement of local laws, while the U.S. Embassy in Moscow currently has “limited ability” to assist Americans.
Griner, 31, is a seven-time WNBA All-Star and has won two Olympic gold medals. Like a number of WNBA players, Griner plays in Russia in the winter off-season to supplement her income. She has played for Russia’s Yekaterinburg UMMC since 2015. The WNBA told the Times that all of its players have left Russia and Ukraine, except Griner. The WNBA did not immediately respond to a Forbes request for comment.
Russia Says It Has American Basketball Player in Custody (New York Times)
WNBA star Brittney Griner detained in Russia on drug charges (USA Today)