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Mercury’s WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner arrested on drug charges in Russia

The Russian Customs Service said Saturday that the cartridges were identified as containing oil derived from cannabis.
Published: Mar. 5, 2022 at 8:44 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 5, 2022 at 10:05 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia last month at a Moscow airport after a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges.

The Russian Customs Service said Saturday that the cartridges were identified as containing oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The customs service identified the person arrested as a player for the U.S. women’s team and did not specify the date of her arrest. Russian media reported the player was Griner, and her agent did not dispute those reports.

“We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said Saturday. “As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.”

On Saturday, the State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory for Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine and urged all U.S. citizens to depart immediately, citing factors including “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials” and “the Embassy’s limited ability to assist” Americans in Russia. A statement from the State Department obtained Arizona’s Family and KOLD said that the agency was aware of an arrest in Moscow. “Whenever a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services,” said a spokesperson.

Griner, who plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has played in Russia for the last seven years in the winter, earning over $1 million per season — more than quadruple her WNBA salary. She last played for her Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg on Jan. 29 before the league took a two-week break in early February for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.

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The 31-year-old Griner has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S., a WNBA championship with the Mercury and a national championship at Baylor. She is a seven-time All-Star.

“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States,” the league said in a statement.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle, posted on Instagram on Saturday evening. “Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated. I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life. I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely,” said Cherelle.

Arizona’s Family is working on learning more information.