Russia extends detention of WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner for drug possession
Brittney Griner of the United States in action with Sandrine Gruda of France at Saitama Super Arena during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic women's basketball Group B game in Saitama, Japan August 2, 2021. © Sergio Perez, Reuters

Seven-times WNBA All-Star player Brittney Griner's detention in Russia for the possession of vape cartridges containing hash oil has been extended until May 19, according to Russian news agency TASS.

TASS reported that the Khimkinsky court of the Moscow region ruled to detain Griner for at least two more months.

"The court granted the petition of the investigation and extended the term of U.S. citizen Griner's detention until May 19," TASS quoted the court as saying.

Ekaterina Kalugina, a member of Public Monitoring Commission, a semi-official body with access to Russian prisons, told TASS Griner was sharing a cell with two other women with no previous convictions, adding that Griner's only issue was that the prison beds were too short for her 6'7" frame.

Without identifying Griner, a centre for the Phoenix Mercury, the Russian Customs Service said earlier this month a player was detained in February after arriving at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on a flight from New York.

TASS identified the player as Griner, citing a source. The Phoenix Mercury team, without elaborating, said: "We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia."

A scan of the player's luggage revealed cartridges containing "liquid with hashish oil", and a criminal case has been opened carrying a possible sentence of five to 10 years in prison, the customs service said.

It was not clear when in February Griner, who plays in Russia during the WNBA's winter off-season, was detained.

At a joint press conference with Moldova President Maia Sandu, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration had assigned an embassy team to work on Griner's case.

Griner has won Olympic gold medals with the U.S. national teams in 2016 and 2021.

(REUTERS)