US representative Colin Allred said the Russian detainment of Olympic athlete Brittney Griner is “extremely concerning.”
Back in February, the openly gay basketball player was taken into custody for allegedly carrying hashish oil in her luggage.
However, the Russian Federal Customs Service didn’t announce Griner’s arrest until three weeks later.
“As a US citizen was passing through the green channel at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arriving from New York, a working dog from the Sheremetyevo Customs canine department detected the possible presence of narcotic substances in the accompanying luggage,” customs officials said.
Alongside their statement, the authorities released a video that allegedly featured the player walking through security.
If she’s convicted for “transporting drugs”, the 32-year old could potentially face up to 10 years in prison.
In a recent interview with Don Lemon of CNN, Allred revealed that his consular access requests to Griner have been denied for the past three weeks.
“For Brittney’s sake, we don’t want her to become part of this kind of political battle that’s going on, and we want to make sure that her rights are respected and that we are able to get access to her, and that she can get through the process and get home as quickly as possible,” he explained.
In an additional interview with ESPN, Allred described the denial of consular access as “unusual.”
“The Russian criminal justice system is very different than ours, very opaque. We don’t have a lot of insight into where she is in that process right now, but she’s been held for three weeks now and that’s extremely concerning,” he explained.
USA Basketball is aware of and closely monitoring the legal situation facing Brittney Griner in Russia. 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 (@usabasketball) March 5, 2022
The exact location of Griner is currently unknown, but her Russian lawyer is reportedly in contact with her family and agent.
Over the last week, friends, family and figures in the sports industry have expressed their grief regarding the gold medalist’s detainment.
Taking to Instagram, Griner’s wife opened up about the situation in a heartbreaking statement.
“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated,” she wrote.
“I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life.
“I understand that many of you have grown to love BG over the years and have concerns and want details. Please honor our privacy as we continue to work on getting my wife home safely.”
Due to the ongoing military invasion of Ukraine, the US embassy in Moscow has encouraged US citizens to leave Russia.
“An increasing number of airlines are cancelling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines. US citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available,” they said via a security alert on 27 February.
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