Brittney Griner, a top basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA since 2013, has experienced yet another setback in her fight to be free from a Russian prison. According to ABC News, her legal ordeal in Russia started in February 2022. The law in Russia forbids the use of this chemical.
During the off-season, this two-time U.S. Olympic champion was going to Russia to compete for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Premier League (via Britannica). In 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021, she assisted in guiding her Russian side to victory at the Euro League championships.
Brittle Prison Sentence for Brittney Griner
Regarding Griner’s situation, there has been much discussion regarding the influence of world politics. Shortly after her detention, Russia began its conflict with Ukraine, which the U.S. administration denounced (via ABC News). About a month after her initial arrest, the U.S. State Department campaigned for access to Griner and was eventually successful.
The Russian government ignored the requests for Griner’s release by the U.S. government and many other governments, and her case dragged on for months. During her July trial, Griner argued that she had accidentally taken the cartridges with her and that she was legally allowed to consume cannabis in the U.S. for medical purposes. Attorneys for Griner swiftly submitted an appeal.
Is There A Diplomatic Fix?
Griner appears to have exhausted her legal options inside the Russian judicial system after the Moscow court’s decision sustaining her conviction and initial sentence. The U.S. administration has been trying to find a diplomatic way to rescue her, but she may need to go in another direction. According to NPR, a prisoner exchange is one of the options. For Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia since 2018; the United States has offered to trade Viktor Bout, an arms dealer who is now serving a 25-year jail sentence in Illinois.
Russia’s initial answer to this trade proposal was unimpressive, and it asked for the release of a different prisoner the United States was not detaining. Following the appeals court’s ruling, President Joe Biden commented on the case. He said, “To get Brittney and others out, we are in continual communication with the Russian authorities.”, based on Reuters.