Brittney Griner recalls harsh 10-month Russian detention: ‘My life is over right here’ – National

Brittney Griner recalls harsh 10-month Russian detention: ‘My life is over right here’ - National

For the first time, WNBA star Brittney Griner will speak extensively about her nearly 10-month-long Russian detainment in an interview highlighting harsh prison conditions and the athlete’s reaction to being jailed for possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

Griner, 33, spoke candidly and often became emotional as she recalled her experience inside a Russian penal colony as part of an upcoming interview with 20/20.

Wearing a suit and with her hair cropped short, Griner wept as she told interviewer Robin Roberts she was often frightened during her detention “because there’s so much unknown.”

Brittney Griner is escorted from a court room after a hearing in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia on Aug. 4, 2022.

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Griner reportedly made the decision to cut her long hair while in Russian custody. Her lawyer said Griner’s hair would freeze when wet while she was held in the penal colony.

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The nine-time WNBA All-Star entered Russia on Feb. 15, 2022, to play for the team UMMC Ekaterinburg during her off-season. She was arrested after Russian customs officials said they found a vape cartridge of hashish oil, which is derived from cannabis, in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession, though maintained she brought the cannabis oil into the country unintentionally.

She was sentenced to nine years in prison, but released on Dec. 8, 2022, as part of a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

In a trailer for the upcoming interview, Griner recalled the moment she realized she was carrying the vape canister in Moscow’s airport.

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“My life is over right here,” Griner remembered thinking.

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Brittney Griner sits inside a cell after the court’s verdict during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. –.


While discussing the conditions she faced during her detention, Griner said the mattress in her cell “had a huge bloodstain on it.”

The athlete also said there was no soap or toilet paper available to her.

“That was the moment where I felt less than a human,” Griner said.

Griner admitted to experiencing some suicidal ideation while in Russian custody.

“I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” Griner said through tears.

Griner maintains she has never brought cannabis into Russia prior to her arrest. Though she has in the past answered select questions about her time in Russian custody, the 20/20 special will be Griner’s first, in-depth interview about the experience.

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Her 2022 detention sparked international concern for her wellbeing among LGBTQ2 advocates because Griner, who is a lesbian, was jailed in a country where authorities have often been hostile to gay and queer people. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, made impassioned pleas for Griner to return home throughout her 10-month detention, and met with U.S. President Joe Biden prior to the prisoner swap with Russia.

ABC reported the 20/20 special will also feature interviews with Griner’s wife Cherelle, Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas and Special Presidential Envoy of Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens.

Griner returned to professional basketball in May 2023 and continued her career with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury team.

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This month, Griner and Cherelle announced they are expecting their first child together, due July 2024.

“Can’t believe we’re less than three months away from meeting our favorite human being,” Cherelle wrote on Instagram, alongside the hashtag #BabyGrinerComingSoon.

Griner’s one-hour 20/20 interview, titled “Prisoner in Russia: The Brittney Griner Interview,” will air on ABC at 10 p.m. ET on May 1.

She is also releasing a memoir, called Coming Home, which will be available on May 7.

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