American basketball star Brittney Griner told her trial on Wednesday that she had no intention of smuggling drugs into Russia and had come to the country despite American warnings so as not to disappoint his Russian team.
Griner, a two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and NBA women’s champion who had played in Russia, was arrested in February, just days before Moscow launched its offensive in Ukraine.
She has been charged with drug trafficking for possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil and is on trial in the town of Khimki, just outside Moscow.
Speaking at the trial on Wednesday, Griner, who is 2.06 meters (6ft 9in), said she still does not know how the cartridges ended up in her bag.
“I have not thought or planned to introduce banned substances into Russia,” Griner said.
“I had no intention of breaking Russian law,” she added, saying she “was in a rush to pack.”
She also said she had “no intention of using” a substance banned in Russia.
“I wouldn’t do anything that could hurt my team.”
Griner was arrested when she came to Russia to play club basketball with UMMC Ekaterinburg during the American offseason – a common route for American stars looking for extra income.
She pleaded guilty and faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison.
The 31-year-old WNBA star said she got permission from an American doctor to use medical cannabis to relieve pain from her many injuries – “from the spine to the cartilages”.
“I was in a wheelchair for four months. I sprained my ankle,” she said.
She said she used medicinal cannabis “only during breaks and when there are no competitions”.
“It helps me a lot,” she said.
Griner added that she didn’t want to use other painkillers because they have “really bad side effects.”
She said she arrived in Russia despite US authorities recommending against travel to the country and said she would “never” risk the championship.
“My career is my whole life. I’ve dedicated it all, my body, time away from my family,” she said.
“I played with injuries. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my career.”