Today (Aug. 4), WNBA star Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug possession in a Russian court. The athlete was sentenced to nine years in prison, according to The Huffington Post. As previously reported by REVOLT, the Phoenix Mercury center has been detained overseas since early February after Russian authorities accused the athlete of illegally traveling with cannabis oil inside vape cartridges.
During closing remarks, a defense attorney for Griner asked that the Olympian be acquitted of all charges, or for the court to show leniency in her sentence. On July 7, Griner pleaded guilty to traveling with the illegal substance at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow. The athlete insisted she never meant to break the law. “I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law. I was in a rush packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag,” the WNBA player said.
It was later revealed that Griner was prescribed cannabis oil to treat pain stemming from a chronic injury. “The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medical cannabis. The permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health,” Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina told a judge. According to NPR, the WNBA All-Star’s defense team argued that Griner offers positive contributions to Russia and their women’s basketball team. During the WNBA’s off-season, Griner plays with UMMC Ekaterinburg.
On July 14, members from Griner’s Russian women’s basketball team testified on her behalf. “Our task today was to tell the court about her characteristics as an athlete, as a person — tell about how she played a big role in the success of the Ekaterinburg club and Russian women’s basketball as a whole,” Maxim Ryabkov (the director of UMMC Ekaterinburg) said at the time.
During sentencing, Griner spoke to the court: “I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of [Yekaterinburg] for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them.” She added, “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”