Brittney Griner Opens Up About 2022 Arrest in Russia, Blames 'Mental Lapse'

WNBA star Brittney Griner opens up about her 2022 arrest in Russia, describing it as a "mental lapse." Her release in a prisoner swap and return to basketball highlight the challenges faced by American athletes abroad.

Nitish Verma
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Brittney Griner Opens Up About 2022 Arrest in Russia, Blames 'Mental Lapse'

Brittney Griner Opens Up About 2022 Arrest in Russia, Blames 'Mental Lapse'

In an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts on ABC's "Good Morning America," WNBA star Brittney Griner discussed her 2022 arrest in Russia for cannabis oil possession, describing it as a "mental lapse" and sharing her fears during the incident. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time WNBA All-Star, was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in February 2022 after security officers found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in July 2022, testifying that the cartridges were in her bags by accident and she had no intention of breaking Russian law. She was sentenced to nine years in a penitentiary colony on August 4, 2022. After a lengthy legal battle, the United States secured Griner's release in a prisoner swap, trading Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for the WNBA star's return home on December 8, 2022, following nearly 10 months of incarceration.

In the interview, Griner opened up about her mindset during the airport search, worrying about not seeing her wife and the potential impact on her career and public perception. She described the experience as terrifying, expressing that she could visualize everything she had worked hard for crumbling away. Griner also discussed the difficult conditions she faced in Russian custody and her relief at being back home in the United States.

Why this matters: Griner's arrest and detention in Russia sparked international attention and raised concerns about the treatment of American citizens abroad. Her case also highlighted the pay disparities in women's professional basketball, which often lead players to compete overseas during the WNBA offseason.

Griner denied ever intentionally taking cannabis into Russia, comparing the incident to forgetting one's keys or glasses. "My mental lapse was more on a grand scale, but it doesn't take away from how that could happen," she stated. The WNBA star is set to release a memoir titled "Coming Home" on May 7, 2024, which will reveal more details about her time in Russian jail. Griner returned to the Phoenix Mercury last season, earning her eighth All-Star selection, and is in contention for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the Paris Olympic Games this summer.

Key Takeaways

  • Brittney Griner arrested in Russia for cannabis oil possession in 2022
  • Griner pleaded guilty, sentenced to 9 years, then released in prisoner swap
  • Griner described arrest as "mental lapse," feared impact on career and family
  • Griner's case highlighted pay disparities in women's basketball and treatment of Americans abroad
  • Griner to release memoir "Coming Home" in 2024, returned to WNBA and aims for Olympics