Brittney Griner discusses imprisonment experience in Russia

WNBA star Brittney Griner recently shared her experience of being detained in Russia and the mistake that led to her nine-year prison sentence in a special edition of “20/20” on ABC. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time WNBA All-Star, was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki after being found with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia.

Griner described her "mental lapse" that caused her to forget the cartridges in her luggage, attributing it to packing in a rush while in a state of panic. She pleaded guilty to drug charges in July 2022, stating that the cartridges were packed unintentionally and she had no intention of breaking Russian law. Despite being classified as "wrongfully detained" by the U.S. State Department, Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison.

During her detention, Griner faced poor living conditions and worked in a penal colony cutting fabric for Russian military uniforms. She described the cold temperatures, lack of hygiene products, and the need to cut off her dreadlocks due to unsanitary conditions. Griner's release was eventually secured after the U.S. agreed to swap her for a convicted Russian arms dealer.

Since her release, Griner has become an advocate for Americans wrongfully detained abroad, vowing to help bring them home. She expressed disappointment that others, like Paul Whelan, were not released alongside her and called on President Biden to continue efforts to return all Americans detained abroad.

Griner's story highlights the complexities and challenges faced by individuals caught in legal disputes across borders. Her willingness to share her experience and advocate for others demonstrates a commitment to supporting those in similar situations.


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