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Russia rejects Brittney Griner's appeal, upholds nine-year prison sentence

The Olympic medalist was convicted in August for carrying vaporizers with cannabis oil in her luggage in Moscow. She said she was unaware that it was a banned substance.

Brittney Griner

(Cordon Press)

The Russian court rejected Brittney Griner's appeal and sentenced the player to nine years in prison for drug possession plus a fine of one million rubles (more than $16,000). In addition, the Russian court in Moscow indicated that sentence takes into account the WNBA star's time already served in custody, so Griner will realistically serve only about eight years.

Cannabis oil in her luggage

The two-time Olympic medalist was sentenced on Aug. 4. Russian police stated that vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. Griner said she was unaware that it was a banned substance and claimed that the oil was for therapeutic use, not for recreational purposes. According to the testimony gathered by the Russian agency Interfax, the player apologized to the judges:

I want to apologize, I admit my fault. I didn't mean to do that, but I understand that I broke the law.

Griner's lawyers asked in the appeal that her sentence be overturned or her punishment reduced. They mentioned probation as a possible alternative, as they believe the sentence was disproportionate for a player who has done "charitable activities." Griner's petitions were denied by the Moscow court.

"Brittney must be released immediately"

After learning of the ruling, Washington vowed to fight for the player's return. "President Biden has shown that he is willing to do whatever it takes, including making tough decisions, to bring Americans home," said White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan regarding Griner.

The White House released a statement, in which it stated that "President Biden has been very clear that Brittney must be released immediately." It also said that "the Biden-Harris Administration has continued to engage in dialogue with Russia through all available channels and to do everything possible to bring Brittney home."

We are aware of news from Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be unjustly detained in intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another bogus court proceeding today.... The President has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home, as his Administration has successfully done from countries around the world. The Administration remains in regular contact with family representatives, and we continue to admire their courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances.