The Customs Service confirmed to the New York Times that a two-time gold medal-winning athlete matching Griner’s description had been arrested at the Sheremetyevo airport, and later released video footage of the athlete — which a Russian news agency reported was Griner, and added that the arrest took place in February — having their luggage searched at security, where they found the cannabis oil-filled cartridges in a carry-on bag.
Griner was taken into custody pending further investigation. In Russia, the transportation of drugs could carry a sentence of 10 years in prison.
The Phoenix Mercury, Griner’s WNBA team, said in a statement Saturday, “We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA & 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.”
The WNBA added, “Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”
USA Basketball is aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia. Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns.
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) March 5, 2022
WNBA players like Griner, who has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014, and her Mercury teammate Diane Taurasi — who previously spent 10 years playing in the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League, until 2017 — flock to Russia (and, to a lesser extent, Ukraine) during the WNBA offseason, as that country offers women basketball players lucrative contracts that sometimes exceed what they’re paid in America.
However, WNBA athletes in Ukraine all fled the country upon Russia’s invasion, with U.S. athletes in Russia doing the same in recent days as the war continued. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a warning to U.S. citizens in Russia last week, “An increasing number of airlines are cancelling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines. U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available.”