Brittney Griner tells ABC that she ‘wanted to take my life more than once’ while detained in Russia

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Brittney Griner has detailed the mental anguish she suffered during her time in Russian detention, saying in a new interview on ABC’s “20/20” that she considered taking her own life on multiple occasions.

The WNBA star spent almost 300 days in custody in Russia having been detained in February 2022 and sentenced to nine years in prison after authorities found cannabis oil in her luggage.

The US State Department deemed that Griner had been wrongfully detained and she was released in December 2022 in a prisoner swap involving Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“I wanted to take my life more than once in those first weeks. I felt like leaving here so badly,” Griner said in the ABC interview which aired on Wednesday.

She added: “I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through. I definitely thought about it. But then, I was just like, ‘What if they didn’t release my body to my family?’ I can’t put them through that. I have to endure this.”

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, also said that she was required to write Russian President Vladimir Putin a letter asking for forgiveness.

Griner is escorted to a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow in August 2022. - Natalia Kolesnikova/Reuters
Griner is escorted to a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow in August 2022. - Natalia Kolesnikova/Reuters

“They made me write this letter,” said Griner, not specifying who told her to write the letter. “It was in Russian. I had to basically ask for forgiveness and thanks from their so-called great leader. I didn’t want to do it, but at the same time, I want to come home.”

In the same interview, Griner detailed the conditions she was subjected to in prison, including dirty cells, a huge blood stain on her mattress, no soap and not enough toilet paper.

Russian prosecutors accused her of trying to smuggle less than one gram of cannabis oil in her luggage contained in vape cartridges while she was playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.

Her detainment highlighted the salary limits WNBA players face in the US, pushing athletes to go overseas to earn more during the offseason. The Phoenix Mercury star is entering her 11th WNBA season having returned to the team in May last year.

Earlier this month, Griner and her wife Cherelle announced that they are expecting their first child, while the 33-year-old is also in contention for a spot on the US team for this year’s Paris Olympics.

CNN’s Ben Morse contributed to reporting.

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