A Russian court has handed Brittney Griner, a well-known figure in the sport of basketball, a sentence of nine years in prison on charges of drug smuggling. A verdict of guilty has been rendered against the footballer for the offense of attempting to import prohibited substances into Russia.
The conviction was reached following an emotionally charged trial that took place during a time of heightened tension between Moscow and Washington over Ukraine. The governments of these countries have been having discussions over the potential for a high-stakes prisoner exchange that might result in the return of Ms. Griner from Russia.
In February, Griner was questioned and held at an airport
The basketball player, who is 31 years old, was held on February 17 at an airport close to Moscow after it was discovered that her luggage included vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil. During the off-season for club basketball in the United States, she was in Russia playing for a team there.
Griner conceded that she did in fact possess cannabis oil, but she told the judge that she did so by “honest error” since she was in a rush to pack her suitcase. Her legal team contended that Griner had only infrequently used medical marijuana in Arizona, where the practice is permissible, where she resides.
They also mentioned that she did it on the advice of her physician to treat the extreme pain she was experiencing as a result of sports injuries. In addition to the nine-year prison sentence, Judge Anna Sotnikova found her guilty of intentionally possessing cannabis oil and handed down an additional fine of one million rubles.
After the verdict was announced, Griner, who was visibly overcome with emotion, stated, “I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my supporters, and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for the error that I did and the shame that I inflicted on them.” I also want to apologize to my parents, my brothers, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the incredible women of the WNBA, and the incredible person I married back at home.
Vice President Joe Biden Issues a Plea for Griner’s Release
The Vice President, Joe Biden, has stated that they cannot accept the punishment. In a statement that he issued, he called on Russia to “immediately free her so that she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammate.” He went on to say that the administration of the United States would keep working toward the goal of bringing Griner and Paul Whelan, an American who is doing time in a Russian prison for espionage, back to the United States.
The Democratic State Representative for Texas, Colin Allred, has also provided assurances that the administration is committed to ensuring Griner’s release. He wrote in a tweet, “People need to keep in mind that this conviction is the culmination of a sham trial, and Brittney was held against her will.” This is nothing more than a cynical attempt by Russia to acquire leverage over the situation. The United States of America is still dedicated to bringing Brittney Griner back to her family.
Griner is a winner of the Olympic gold medal on two separate occasions
The standout player that she is throughout her career has been Brittney Griner, who currently competes for the Phoenix Mercury. She began her professional career in college basketball, where she became the only player in NCAA history to ever score 2,000 points and block 500 shots in a single season.
Griner was a member of the teams that won the gold medal in the Olympics in both 2016 and 2020, when they were held in Rio and Tokyo respectively. She was presented with the ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete that same year (2013). In addition to that, she is the first out homosexual athlete to ever have an endorsement agreement with Nike.
The commissioners of both the WNBA and the NBA have issued a combined statement in which they declare her penalty unreasonable. “Both the verdict and the sentence handed down today are unfair and regrettable, but they were not a surprise. Brittney Griner is still being held in error.” The WNBA and NBA’s commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States,” the statement read.