WNBA player detained in Russia for THC cartridges

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Basketball star Brittney Griner, WNBA (women’s NBA) champion and Olympic gold medalist for the United States, has been detained in Russia for days or even weeks after customs officials in Moscow allegedly found cartridges THC to vape in your luggage.

The timeline of Griner’s arrest isn’t entirely clear, with current tensions around Russia not helping matters. Customs authorities released security footage of a 1.80m tall person who appears to be Griner going through security checks at Moscow’s Sheremtyevo airport in February, but did not give his name or exact date of arrival. his arrest.

Griner usually travels to Russia to work during the WNBA off-season. Many WNBA players supplement their income by playing for foreign teams during the winter. In recent years, Griner has played for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Women’s EuroLeague.

His detention highlights the risks for American athletes, such as Sha’Carri Richardson, of using cannabis even as cannabis legalization spreads across the United States, Canada, Mexico and many more. other countries. The American leagues also authorize the use of cannabis for their players.

The Russian government has reportedly opened criminal proceedings against the seven-time WNBA star due to national laws that prohibit the possession of cannabis for recreational or medical purposes. In Russia, canisters of cannabis like those allegedly found in Griner’s luggage could earn him a 10-year prison sentence for just two grams.

What will happen to Brittney Griner?

The Phoenix Mercury, Griner’s WNBA team, released a statement on Instagram Saturday, March 5, acknowledging Griner’s detention. But the question that arises is obvious: how did this news remain silent for so long?

Griner is one of the WNBA’s biggest stars. Headlines about Russia may have dominated world news for weeks, but its “demise” may have been purposely underreported.

“Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we are, of course, ready to provide any assistance we can, and that includes Russia,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ESPN. . “We have an embassy team working on the cases of other Americans who are detained in Russia. We do everything we can to ensure that their rights are upheld and respected. »

Evelyn Farkas, a former senior Pentagon official who served as U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine from 2012 to 2015, told Yahoo Sports that Russia could use Griner as a “high-level hostage as tensions between the United States and Russia come to a head over the war in Ukraine.

“If we want her out of prison, Russia is going to have conditions,” Farkas said. “It could be an exchange of prisoners. They could also use it as an implied threat or blackmail to get us to do something or not do something. Either way, they find it helpful. »

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