Why has Brittney Griner received prison sentence? The reason for arrest and charges for US Basketball star

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WNBA star Brittney Griner has been sentence in Russia for nine-and-a half years over drug sentence

The US WNBA star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years by Russian prosecutors after the Kremlin has wrapped up what has been an exceptionally politically charged trial.

Russian prosecutors have said that the Phoenix Mercury basketball player’s arrest was ‘fully proven’ and demanded she serve nearly a full decade in a high-security prison as well as pay a large fine.

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In her closing statement, Griner told the court that she had made an ‘honest mistake’.

“That is why I plead guilty to my charges but I had no intent of breaking the law.”

So who is WNBA star Brittney Griner and why was she arrested?

Who is Brittney Griner?

Born in Houston, Texas, in 1990, Griner first played basketball while she attended Nimitz High School. During her sophomore year, Griner practiced with the boys’ basketball team before working with a football coach to help develop her strength.

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During her junior year, a video of Griner’s dunks went viral on YouTube and led to her meeting with basketball star Shaquille O’Neal.

From school, Griner attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where she played college basketball and blocked 223 shots as a freshman - an all-time single-season record.

She is the only NCAA player to both score 2,000 points and block 500 shots and was named the All-American AP Player of the Year in 2012.

Griner for Phoenix Mercury in 2021Griner for Phoenix Mercury in 2021
Griner for Phoenix Mercury in 2021 | Getty Images

In the 2013 WNBA draft, Griner was selected by Phoenix Mercury as the first overall pick and went on to thrive in her rookie season, becoming one of the most dominant defensive forces in the league.

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Griner has also played for her country at the 2016and 2020 Olympics leading her squad to gold medals on both occasions.

Griner is an eight time WNBA all-star, a two-time WNBA scoring champion and 8-time WNBA blocks leader amongst several other accolations she has received.

The 6ft 9in athlete is also one of only 11 women to receive an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA championship, a FIBA World Cup gold medal and a WNBA championship.

Why was Griner arrested?

Back in February, Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport after authorities had found vape canisters containing cannabis oil.

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She had been travelling to Russia to play in the Russian Super League during her off-season.

The cannabis oil had been doctor recommended and in her closing statement, Griner’s lawyer spoke of the pressures Griner faces, likening her situation to Usain Bolt.

The US have declared Griner is being ‘wrongfully detained’ and has argued that the charges against her were meant to put political pressure on the States.

US officials have said that Russia is hoping to exchange Griner and Paul Whelan (a former US marine arrested on spy charges back in 2020) for the convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.

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A guilty verdict would be necessary for the prisoner exchange to progress.

Griner herself has said: “I know everybody keeps talking about ‘political pawn’ and ‘politics but I hope that is far from this courtroom.”

Russia has already exchanged the former marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot who was held in the US on a drug smuggling conviction.

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