Brittney Griner blames cannabis oil cartridges that landed her in Russian prison on ‘mental lapse’

Basketball star Brittney Griner this week will speak publicly about her experience in a Russian prison for the first time since her release in December 2022.

In an interview with Robin Roberts, scheduled to air Wednesday on ABC, the Olympic gold medalist and a nine-time WNBA All-Star breaks down as she shares that her incarceration was the result of a “mental lapse,” and that at times in prison she felt suicidal.

“I was just so scared,” a tearful Griner tells Roberts.

In February 2022, Griner, who plays center for the Phoenix Mercury, was entering Russia to play during the WNBA’s off-season.

But as her bags were searched at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki, guards discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia.

“I could just visualize everything I worked so hard for just crumbling and going away,” Griner told Roberts.

Griner, who pleaded guilty to drug charges in July 2022, testified that the cartridges were packed unintentionally and that she had “no intention” of breaking Russian law. She was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on Aug. 4, 2022.

Griner said her family popped into her mind when the cartridges were discovered.

“I’m thinking about my wife. I’m thinking about my dad. You know, what my mom’s gonna think, what my family’s gonna think, public opinion is gonna think,” she said. She added that she could already see what the headlines would be.

In the interview, Roberts confronts Griner with those who may be skeptical that she had accidentally packed the cartridges. But Griner held firm, saying the moment had been a “mental lapse.”

“Have you ever forgot your keys in your car? Left your car running? Have you ever — you know, where’s my glasses? They’re on top of your head. Where’s my phone? Oh, it’s in my pocket. It’s just so easy to have a mental lapse,” Griner said.

The U.S. State Department classified Griner as “wrongfully detained” in May 2022.

In her interview with Roberts, Griner also describes the conditions of her confinement, saying that her mattress had a “huge bloodstain” on it, she had no soap and no toilet paper.

“That was the moment that I felt just less than a human,” Griner said.

Griner also told Roberts that there were moments where she thought of committing suicide.

“I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” Griner said.

With growing pressure from the public as well as Griner’s wife and family, the Biden administration worked for months to have Russia release Griner.

The U.S. finally managed to secure the Houston native’s release in a prisoner-exchange deal with Russia for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

On Dec 8, 2022, after nearly 10 months in prison, Griner was released.

“Prisoner in Russia: The Brittney Griner interview” will air Wednesday on ABC.

Griner’s memoir, “Coming Home,” will be released on May 7.

Griner said the book will detail her incarceration in Russia, but also “how my family, my faith, and the support of millions who rallied for my rescue helped me endure a nightmare.”

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