Dalila Ali Rajah
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Russia Says It Has Detained Brittney Griner, U.S. Basketball Icon

Birttney Griner playing basketball

According to reports, Russia has detained international basketball star Brittney Griner. Russian Federal Customs Service announced it had detained an American basketball player. According to The New York Times, the Russian news agency TASS later identified that player as Griner.

Griner is a seven-time WNBA all-star who has won two Olympic gold medals. According to the Customs Service, she was detained after vape cartridges with hashish oil were allegedly found in her luggage. It is expected that she has been in custody for several days. The athlete last posted on Instagram on February 5 and could have been under detention for weeks.

"My homie been there for three weeks," Angel McCoughtry, a fellow basketball player and Olympic gold medalist wrote in an Instagram comment. "Free her."

Under Russian drug laws, Griner could face up to five to 10 years in prison for the charges. Russia is reportedly still conducting an investigation to charge her with "smuggling" drugs.

“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia," the Phoenix Mercury, who Griner plays for, said in a statement, according to the Times. "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.”

Griner is married to Cherelle T. Griner. She was going to Russia as, in addition to playing for Phoenix Mercury, she played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg which is not unusual for basketball player wanting to increase their earnings.

Other players left Russia as news of the Ukraine invasion broke. That invasion has led to hundreds of casualties as well as Ukrainians leaving the fleeing the country and seeking refugee status elsewhere.

Russia's current anti-LGBTQ+ laws and attitudes are of concern to some activists for Griner given that she is a lesbian. 

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