Brittney Griner: WNBA star considered suicide while detained in Russia

Brittney Griner revealed that she contemplated suicide while jailed in Russia after her arrest on drug charges in February 2022.

Griner was arrested at an airport in Moscow after Russian authorities found vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia.

Griner had been playing in the Russian Premier League when she was arrested two years ago. She pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to nine years in prison and sent to a penal colony.

“I wanted to take my life more than once in the first weeks,” Griner told American broadcaster ABC.

“I felt like leaving here so badly. My whole heart just fell out of my body. Just this overpowering feeling of like an elevator dropped from underneath my feet.

“I’m just like, ‘My life is over right here. In the midst of them going through my bags, there’s two cartridges. And I’m just like, ‘Oh, my god, how did I make this mistake?’

“How was I absentminded and made this huge mistake? I could just visualize everything I worked so hard for just crumbling and going away.”

Griner was in Russia to resume playing for her European team UMMC Ekaterinburg but has since vowed she won’t play overseas again unless it is with the U.S. national team.

Griner, 33, was detained for nearly 10 months but was freed in a prison swap that involved Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in December 2020.

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

“I definitely thought about (suicide). But then, I was just like, what if they didn’t release my body to my family? And I was like, ‘I can’t put them through that. I have to endure this.'”

Griner also detailed the conditions of her cell, saying that at times she felt “less than human.”

“When we walk into the cell, there’s a bathroom,” Griner said. “There’s a little rinkity sink that leaks and then just add a layer of dust, dirt, grime, blood stains. Just filth.

“I had a couple of shirts, a couple of pairs of sweats, the shoes on my feet. One of my shirts, I ripped it up and I used one to clean myself. I used one as my toilet paper. With my dirty, dirty hole in the ground with faeces all over it.

“That was the moment where I just felt the dirtiest and, like, less than a human.”

Brittney Griner guided Phoenix to the WNBA title in 2014

Before her release, the Phoenix Mercury star said she was ordered to write a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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

Griner played in her first WNBA since the incident on May 19, 2023, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds and four blocks for the Mercury.

Griner, who guided Phoenix to the WNBA title in 2014, played 31 games last season, averaging 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists. The eight-time All-Star has averaged 17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks during her 10-year career.

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