Phoenix Sun center Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner and WNBA All-Star has been arrested at a Moscow airport after she was allegedly caught with a vape pen filled with cannabis.
The arrest took place sometime last month, with an exact date not specified. Griner is believed to remain in custody in Russia on drug smuggling charges.
After flying in from New York, the 31-year-old basketball player was detained at the Sheremetyevo international airport after drug-sniffing dogs were drawn to her luggage, according to InterFax Russian news agency.
After the dog identified the bag, a customs agent used ‘fluoroscopic equipment’ to scan the contents and discovered the vape cartridges.
Brittney Griner, right, and A’ja Wilson seen here checking the quality of her 2020 Olympic gold medal, which she help win for the U.S. Women’s Basketball team
‘The customs inspection of hand luggage carried by a US citizen confirmed the presence of “vapes” with a liquid with a specific smell, and an expert found that the liquid is a narcotic cannabis oil (hash oil),’ according to the Russian customs service.
The Phoenix Suns confirmed that Griner was arrested and jailed. Possession of cannabis is illegal in Russia. Possession of up to six grams can result in a fine or imprisonment of up to 15 days, while being caught with larger amounts can lead to a stiffer sentence.
It is unclear how much of the drug Griner had in her possession.
‘We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia,’ the women’s basketball team said in a statement.
‘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.’
The six-foot-nine-inch center, Griner, pictured with the ball, is a two-time gold medalist
She was charged with ‘smuggling narcotic drugs in a significant amount,’ according to Interfax, a crime that carries a penalty of five to 10 years in prison.
Griner, who is known for her sharp elbows on and off the basketball court, played for Baylor University in Waco, Texas before being drafted into the WNBA by the Mercury in 2013.
Brittney Griner, 31, detained last month at the Sheremetyevo international airport after drug-sniffing dogs were drawn to her luggage
She averaged more than 15 points per game in 2014, the year the team won the WNBA championship.
The six-foot-nine-inch center was part of Gold Medal-winning 2016 U.S. Women’s Basketball team in Brazil and again won gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Griner also plays in the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg in the women’s EuroLeague, where she has helped the team win four titles.
In 2015, Griner and her then wife, Glory Johnson were suspended for seven games after they were arrested and charged with domestic violence.
Griner pleaded guilty to disorderly conducted and agreed to a six month domestic violence prevention counseling, after which the charges were cleared, according to The New York Times.
Griner’s arrest in Russia couldn’t come at a worse time as the country has been isolated financially and politically from the rest of the world after it invaded Ukraine.
Air travel between Russian and the U.S. has been halted as part of the economic sanctions that President Joe Biden levied against the Slavic nation for attacking its smaller neighbor to the south.
Griner has been known for her sharp elbows on and off the court. In 2015, Griner and her then wife, Glory Johnson were suspended for seven games after they were arrested and charged with domestic violence
Many American professional basketball players competing in Russia during the WNBA offseason found themselves scrambling to find airline tickets to the United States following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Several player agents told ESPN that many WNBA players in the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League were trying to leave over to safety concerns.