Russia: We Have WNBA Star in Custody

Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner was reportedly detained last month for having 'vapes'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2022 10:30 AM CST
Russia: We Have WNBA Star in Custody
Minnesota Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson, center, guards Phoenix Mercury center Britteny Griner during an WNBA basketball semifinals game in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Oct. 2, 2016.   (Cheryl Evans/The Arizona Republic via AP)

(Newser) – Russia says it arrested an American WNBA star last month on drug charges, and a law enforcement official who spoke to the Russian news agency Tass says it's the Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner. Per an Interfax release, the nation's Federal Customs Service says that in February, a "two-time Olympic champion" arrived on a flight from New York at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow, and that a drug-sniffing service dog "indicated the possible presence of narcotic drugs in the escorted baggage." FCS goes on to say that an inspection of the woman's luggage turned up "vapes," or vape cartridges, "with a liquid with a specific smell, and an expert found that the liquid is a narcotic cannabis oil (hash oil)."

"A measure of restraint in the form of detention has been chosen against the American woman," says the FCS, which described her only as "a professional basketball player, a member of the US National Basketball Association, [and] a two-time Olympic basketball champion in the US team." The New York Times notes that the FCS also released a video that appeared to show the 31-year-old Griner at the airport having her luggage searched. The FCS remarks don't indicate the detainee was ever released, and the New York Post notes that Griner hasn't posted on her Instagram since Feb. 5.

In a statement, the Phoenix Mercury said it's "aware of and ... closely monitoring the situation," per ABC15. "We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA," the team notes. "We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home." Interfax notes that a criminal case for smuggling of narcotics "has been initiated," for which a conviction could lead to five to 10 years behind bars. Griner's agent and WNBA reps haven't yet issued a statement. (Read more Brittney Griner stories.)

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