Russia Says It Has American Basketball Player in Custody

The Russian Federal Customs Service said that its officials had detained an American basketball player after finding vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow.

The Customs Service said in a statement that the player had won two Olympic gold medals with the United States, but it did not release the player’s name. The Russian news agency TASS, citing a law enforcement source, identified the player as Brittney Griner, a seven-time W.N.B.A. All-Star center for the Phoenix Mercury. Griner won gold medals with the U.S. women’s national basketball team in 2020 and 2016.

The Customs Service released a video of a traveler at the airport that appeared to be the 31-year-old Griner, wearing a mask and black sweatshirt, going through security. The video showed an individual removing a package from the traveler’s bag.

According to the statement, a criminal case has been opened into the large-scale transportation of drugs, which can carry a sentence of up to 10 years behind bars in Russia. The basketball player was taken into custody while the investigation is ongoing, the officials said.

Griner’s agent and spokespeople for the W.N.B.A. and the Phoenix Mercury did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The detainment comes amid the escalating conflict created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and high tensions between Russia and the United States. In recent years, Russia has been detaining and sentencing American citizens on what United States officials often say are trumped-up charges. The arrest of a high-profile American could be seen as Russia attempting to create leverage for a potential prisoner exchange with the American government.

Many W.N.B.A. players compete in Russia, where salaries are more lucrative, during the American league’s off-season. Griner has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years.

Some American players began making plans to leave Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The few W.N.B.A. players who were competing this off-season in Ukraine are no longer in the country,” the W.N.B.A. told ESPN in a statement this week. “The league has also been in contact with W.N.B.A. players who are in Russia, either directly or through their agents. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

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