A Russian court has extended the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner until at least July 2, according to a report by Russian state-run news agency TASS outlined by CNN. Griner has been detained since March by Russia which accuses her of drug smuggling after allegedly finding vape cartridges containing cannabis in her luggage at customs.
Griner is considered “wrongfully detained” by U.S. officials.
In the U.S., Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury but has played in Russia for the last seven years during the winter offseason, earning $1 million per season, which is more than four times her WNBA salary.
In Russia, Griner faces up to 10 years in prison for the drug smuggling charge. Her detention has been extended three times since her arrest
State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Tuesday said the agency’s “position for some time on this has been very clear: Brittney Griner should not be detained.” He added that the U.S. had lost consular access to Griner last month.
“She should not be detained for a single day longer.” — Price, in a statement, via CNN
Russia and U.S. relations have been strained by the former’s invasion of Ukraine and many fear that Griner will be used as a political pawn. Her case is being handled by the office of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs which leads diplomatic efforts to release Americans wrongfully detained abroad. The office helped free U.S. citizen Trevor Reed in April as part of a prisoner swap with Russia.
In a statement on Twitter, Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said the “extension is just further reinforcement” that Griner “is being used as a political pawn.”
“Her detention is inhumane and unacceptable,” Kagawa Colas wrote. “She has not had a single phone call in her 117 days of wrongful detention.”
Following Griner’s arrest, the Russian Federal Customs Service issued a statement indicating that it had opened a criminal investigation into the large-scale transportation of drugs but did not name Griner.
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