United States' Brittney Griner (15) defends against Serbia's Dragana Stankovic during the Women's Basketball semifinal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
March 5 (UPI) -- Russian authorities announced Saturday they detained WNBA star Brittney Griner after allegedly finding vapes with hashish oil in her luggage.
The Russian Federal Customs Service announced it detained a player who had won two Olympic gold medals in the United States in February, but did not release the player's name, The New York Times first reported.
The player was later identified as Griner, 31, a seven-time WNBA All-Star who plays for the Phoenix Mercury and won Olympic gold medals with the U.S. national basketball team in 2021 and 2016, by the Russia's state-run news agency TASS, citing a law enforcement source.
In video footage from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport released by the customs service, a woman who appears to be Griner is seen placing her bag through security scanning.
The basketball player had flown from New York to Moscow, according to the customs service, and officers noticed vapes containing the cannabis oil after scanning the bag.
A criminal case has been initiated against the U.S. citizen for "smuggling of narcotic drugs in a significant amount," which could result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years in Russia, according to the customs service.
Griner has been taken into custody while the investigation is underway, customs said.
The Mercury expressed its support for her in a statement Saturday.
"We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia," a team statement posted to Twitter said. "We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home."
USA Basketball and the WNBA players' union have also released statements of support for Griner posted to Twitter.
"Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns," USA Basketball said in its statement of support.
"Our utmost concern is BG's safety and well-being," the union statement said.
The arrest comes amid the Russia-Ukraine war heightening tension between Russia and the United States, which has recently placed sanctions on Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, Russian banks, and the country's elites and families supporting the war on Ukraine.
Griner is among many WNBA players who have competed in Russia to earn more money during the U.S. league's off-season, the Times noted.
A WNBA spokeswoman told the Times on Saturday that all WNBA players besides Griner were out of Russia and Ukraine.