Russian authorities have arrested American Olympic star and WNBA player Brittney Griner on drug smuggling charges.
One WNBA star has landed herself in a tricky legal scenario having being detained in Russia after customs authorities uncovered used hash oil cartridges in her baggage and charged her of smuggling drugs. Brittney Griner, a former Olympic and WNBA star from the United States, was arrested at Sherematyevo International Airport outside of Moscow.
Griner, 31, is a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury in the United States.
She was apprehended in late February, indicating that she had been in detention for at least a few days. According to the New York Times, she may receive up to ten years behind bars if convicted under Russia’s notoriously draconian drug-smuggling laws.
Griner holds two gold medals as a member of Olympic women’s basketball squads. As per the New York Times, she has been competing in Russia for years, as have several other WNBA players, who found that they can earn more income playing in Russia during the WNBA off-season.
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For several years, she was a member of the Russian squad UMMC Ekaterinburg.
A criminal case against the American basketball player “has been opened into the large-scale transportation of drugs,” as per a statement from Russia’s Customs Service.
The Russian Customs Service stated that the arrested player had won two gold medals, but did not reveal their identify. However, a spokesperson for Griner has verified the arrest, and the league has issued a statement pledging to support Griner during this difficult time.
Griner was reportedly seized by the Russian Customs Service, according to a video provided via Telegram by them.
A Russian guard was seen withdrawing something from Griner’s backpack in the footage. The tape had a February date on it, indicating that Griner had been jailed in Russia for weeks.
Her publicist said her team was informed of the matter and was attempting to remedy it.
The detention occurred amidst the rising turmoil caused by Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, as well as heightened hostilities between Russia and the United States, as the New York Times points out.
Following the arrest of Trevor Reed two and a half years back, this is probably to be the most high-profile detention of an American in Russia. Since his arrest, the 30-year-old ex American Marine has been held on false charges and charged of being a “spy.”
Reed and another former Marine, Paul Whelan, have been held in Russian captivity for years on allegations that their relatives (and American officials) allege were made up by the Russian government to use them as “bargaining chips.”
Moscow, on the other hand, now has even another useful negotiation tool. And, as China has demonstrated, negotiating tools can be incredibly beneficial at times.