Mercury’s Brittney Griner in ‘good condition’ in Russian prison, State Department official says after visit

Brittney Griner, left, who plays for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg, is in “good condition,” a State Department official said. Griner is awaiting trial after Russian officials accused her of allegedly trying to enter the country with vape cartridges containing hashish oil. (Photo by /BSR Agency/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia on drug charges for almost five weeks, is reported to be in “good condition,” a U.S Department of State official said Wednesday.

In an interview with CNN, Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, said a U.S. official finally was allowed access to check on the well-being of Griner, the Phoenix Mercury’s star center and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. The visit came two days after John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, demanded that Russia follow international law and basic human decency and allow consular access to Griner.

“We were able to check on her condition,” Price said in a CNN interview. “We will continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network, to see that she’s treated fairly. That is a message that we will continue to convey in no uncertain terms to the Russian federation.”

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Griner’s situation remains bleak. In an interview with the Associated Press, Peter Maggs, a Russian Law expert at the University of Illinois College of Law, described as “a little worrisome” the fact that Griner’s detention was extended another month, until May 19, “because you have to go through a higher authority to get it lengthened.” Maggs added that Griner could be sentenced to five years in a labor camp, have a less severe sentence or be deported as an undesirable alien.

Two weeks before the consular visit, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas who represents the 18th Congressional District of Houston, where Griner’s family is from, expressed her frustrations about how the situation is being handled.

“I’m just plain angry,” Lee told “I’m just darn angry how all of a sudden she becomes someone whose items need to be specifically selected out. And with that in mind, I think it is crucial that this gets elevated.”

Hayden Cilley HAY-din SIL-lee (he/him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Hayden Cilley expects to graduate in December 2024 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Cilley covered the Phoenix Mercury in 2022 for The Next Hoops and is writing and podcasting about the Mercury for PHNX Sports.