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Russia says it’s holding US Olympic basketball champion for drug trafficking


American basketball star Brittney Griner, two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion, has been arrested in Moscow for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

A statement Saturday from Russia’s Federal Customs Service announcing his arrest came as tensions between Moscow and the West soared. The Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It was unclear exactly how long Griner had been in custody, with Customs only saying the arrest took place “in February.”

According to the statement, an inspection of carry-on baggage carried by a US citizen who arrived on a flight from New York “confirmed the presence of ‘vapes’ (and) a liquid with a specific smell”.

He said an expert determined the liquid was narcotic cannabis oil (hash oil) and said the charges carried a potential prison sentence of five to 10 years.

The statement did not identify the jailed woman but said she was a two-time Olympic basketball champion for the United States and a WNBA player.

Customs also released a video on Saturday in which airport security is seen searching the luggage of a passenger who appears to be Griner.

USA Basketball, which oversees Olympic teams, said on Twitter that it was “aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation Brittney Griner was facing in Russia.”

He added, “Brittney has always conducted herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and well-being are our primary concerns.”

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas of the Wasserman Group, said in a statement to US media that the agency was in contact with Griner.

“We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with it, its legal representation in Russia, his family, his teams, the WNBA and the NBA,” she said.

“As this is an ongoing legal case, we are unable to comment further on the specifics of her case, but we can confirm that, as we strive to bring her home, her mental health and physics remains our main concern.”

Griner, 31, led the Phoenix Mercury to the franchise’s third WNBA title in 2014 and a surprise return to the WNBA Finals in October.

The 6ft 9in (2.06m) center has played for UMMC Yekaterinburg in the WNBA offseason since 2015, helping the club win three Russian national titles and Women’s EuroLeague championships in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Griner is among the majority of the 144 players on WNBA rosters who played away during the North American league offseason.

Earnings at European clubs can far exceed what players earn in the United States. Griner reportedly earns up to $1 million per year with UMMC, while the WNBA maximum is around $228,000.

A WNBA spokeswoman told The New York Times on Saturday that all WNBA players except Griner have left. Russia and Ukraine following The Russian invasion of the neighboring country.

The Mercury, WNBA and WNBA Players Association have all issued statements supporting Griner, with the WNBA saying she has the league’s full support and that our top priority is her quick and safe return to the United States.”

The Mercury added: “We love and support Brittney, and at this time our primary concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and safe return home.”


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