Brittney Griner reveals she considered suicide while in Russian captivity

Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner

In a revealing interview with ABC News’s Robin Roberts, WNBA star Brittney Griner bared the harrowing details of her nearly ten-month ordeal in a Russian prison after her 2022 arrest on drug-related charges.

Griner’s account, shared for the first time publicly during the hour-long broadcast on Wednesday night, offered a raw glimpse into her mental and emotional struggles amidst captivity.

Griner’s anguish was palpable as she recounted contemplating suicide during the initial days of her detainment. “I did. I didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” she confessed to Roberts, highlighting the profound despair that gripped her. Yet, the thought of her loved ones and the impact of her death propelled her to persevere. “I have to endure this,” she resolved after worrying that her body wouldn’t be sent to her family had she died.

The WNBA veteran’s troubles began when she was stopped at a security checkpoint in February 2022 upon landing in Russia, where possession of cannabis carries severe penalties. Two cartridges of cannabis oil, a legal substance in her home state of Arizona, were discovered in her backpack. Griner, a nine-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist faced the daunting prospect of up to ten years in a Russian penal colony.

Throughout her interview with Roberts, Griner offered glimpses into the horrific conditions she faced and the pervasive fear that consumed her. She also shared excerpts from her forthcoming memoir, Coming Home, which chronicles her traumatic experience in Russia and is set for release on Tuesday.

Griner’s decision to play overseas during the WNBA offseason had brought her to Russia, where she was drawn by the substantial salary that exceeded her earnings in the WNBA.

The reality of her detention unfolded in stark contrast to her life as a celebrated athlete. Confined to a 7-foot-by-7-foot cell in a notorious Russian jail, Griner endured deplorable conditions, she recalled, including a bed too small for her 6-foot-9-inch frame and inadequate sanitation facilities.

As she navigated the complexities of her detainment, Griner’s thoughts often turned to her wife, Cherelle Griner, and her agent, whom she desperately contacted for help, she said. The days stretched into weeks, and Griner grappled with the chilling prospect of never returning home to the United States.

Griner’s release came after 290 days, but not before she was sentenced to nine years and transferred to an even harsher penal colony. The toll of her captivity extended beyond physical discomfort as she grappled with the psychological scars of her ordeal.

As Griner embarks on her journey of healing and advocacy, she remains committed to bringing attention to the plight of wrongfully detained Americans abroad. She and her wife are expecting their first child, and Griner plans to play for Team USA at the Paris Olympics.

If you or someone you know needs mental health resources and support, please call, text, or chat with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or visit for 24/7 access to free and confidential services. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at or text START to 678678.