Phoenix Mercury All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner has reportedly been detained in Russia on drug charges.
The New York Times reported that the Russian Federal Customs Service detained an American basketball player at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow after finding hashish oil vape cartridges in her luggage. The Customs Service didn’t identify who was arrested, saying only that she’d won two Olympic gold medals.
A Russian news service identified the player as the 31-year-old Griner, and a security video viewed by the Times shows a player that appears to be her. In the video, Griner is going through security wearing a sweatshirt and face mask, and then it shows someone, presumably a customs employee, remove something from her bag.
According to independent Russian news agency Interfax, the arrest happened in February, just after Griner had arrived at Sheremetyevo Airport from New York.
A drug-sniffing dog indicated narcotics in luggage, and when the bag was X-rayed, “so-called ‘vapes’” were discovered “with a specific odor,” according to Interfax, which cited the Russian Federal Customs Service.
Griner hasn’t posted on social media since Feb. 5. A statement released by the Customs Service says a criminal case has been opened into the “large-scale transportation of drugs.” In Russia, a conviction on those charges carries a sentence of 5-10 years in prison.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken declined to comment on the specific case due to privacy when asked about it Sunday. He said “whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we of course stand ready to provide every possible assistance, and that includes in Russia” and referenced the detainments of two U.S. Marines in separate incidents.
“We have an embassy team that’s working on the cases of other Americans who are detained in Russia,” Blinken said. “We’re doing everything we can to see to it that their rights are upheld and respected”
Griner has played in Russia during the offseason since 2015, where salaries are higher for WNBA players. Her reported arrest came several weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though Americans playing in Russia had not been advised to leave the country, with the WNBA continuing to “closely monitor the situation.”
The Mercury released a statement on Saturday morning:
“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia. We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
Her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, released a similar statement later in the day. The WNBA also released a short statement about Griner, as did the WNBA Players Association.
“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States,” a WNBA spokesperson said in a statement to USA Today on Saturday.