Photo by Lorie Shaull
Photo by Lorie Shaull

Openly gay WNBA star Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia near an airport in Moscow.  

According to a report from The New York Times, the Phoenix Mercury player was taken into custody after authorities found hashish oil in her luggage. 

On 5 March, the Russian Federal Customs Service released a statement detailing the incident. However, they didn’t initially identify Griner as the individual. 

“As a US citizen was passing through the green channel at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arriving from New York, a working dog from the Sheremetyevo Customs canine department detected the possible presence of narcotic substances in the accompanying luggage,” customs officials said. 

Alongside their statement, the authorities released a video that allegedly featured the player walking through security. 

Shortly after the report, the Russian news agency Tass cited a source from law enforcement that confirmed the identity of the 32-year-old. 

The Customs Services have also opened up a criminal case against the two-time Olympic gold medalist. If she’s found guilty of “transporting drugs”, the beloved player could face up to 10 years in prison. 

At the time of her detainment, Griner was an active player on the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg. 

The New York Times revealed that many WNBA stars head overseas to secure high paying salaries during the off-season. 

Since Russia’s official announcement, the US State Department said that they would be providing “appropriate consular services” for Griner. 

“We are aware of reports of a US citizen arrested in Moscow. Whenever a US citizen is arrested overseas, we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services,” they said in a statement. 

Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa also gave further insight into the ongoing situation. 

“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,” she told ESPN

“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 health and physical health remain our primary concern.”

For months, Western officials have reported that Russia has been planning an invasion of Ukraine that could begin at any moment – something Vladimir Putin has adamantly denied.

In the early hours of 24 February, however, Ukrainian officials stated that Russia had launched an all-out assault on the country, with troops crossing the border.

Due to the ongoing military invasion, the US embassy in Moscow encouraged US citizens to leave Russia. 

“An increasing number of airlines are cancelling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines. US citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available,” they said via a security alert on 27 February.