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Brittney Griner Considered Committing Suicide While In Russian Prison

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Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who endured nearly 10 months in a Russian prison two years ago, revealed that she grappled with suicidal thoughts during the early stages of her detention.

“I did. I didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” Griner said during a special ABC News report on 20/20 that aired Wednesday. She said considering how her loved ones would react to her death made her dismiss those thoughts and instead think, “I have to endure this.”

At 33 years old, Griner, a nine-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, encountered trouble at a security checkpoint in February 2022. Russian authorities discovered two cartridges of cannabis oil in her backpack upon her arrival in the country, where cannabis possession carries severe penalties. Consequently, she faced drug-related charges that could have led to up to 10 years in a notorious penal colony.

In an hour-long interview with Robin Roberts, Griner became emotional while recounting the fear that consumed her, the deplorable conditions she endured, and the daunting prospect of never returning to the United States. She also shared excerpts from her memoir, “Coming Home,” which delves into her harrowing experience in Russia and is set to be released next Tuesday.

Like many WNBA athletes, Griner played overseas during the off-season, spending the previous seven years on a Russian team due to the lucrative $1 million salary—approximately five times more than her WNBA earnings.

Griner admitted that she inadvertently packed the cannabis oil, which she uses for pain management, in her luggage while rushing to catch a connecting flight at Moscow airport. Despite her awareness of Russia’s strict drug laws, she acknowledged her mistake without offering excuses.

Following her detention, Griner reached out desperately to her wife and agent for assistance. Subsequently, she found herself confined to a cramped cell in a harsh jail, enduring appalling conditions that included insufficient toiletries, meager meals, and exposure to the frigid Russian winter.

After 134 days, Griner pleaded guilty at her trial, taking responsibility for her actions. She was then sentenced to nine years in an even harsher penal colony, where she endured further hardships, including infestations of spiders in her hair.

Throughout her ordeal, Griner’s wife, the WNBA community, and her fans rallied behind her, advocating for her release through social media campaigns and calls to President Joe Biden. Ultimately, after penning a letter of contrition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Griner was freed in a rare prisoner exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout on December 8, 2022, bringing her traumatic ordeal to an end.

Despite her release, Griner continues to grapple with the lasting effects of her arrest and imprisonment, facing racist and homophobic abuse both in person and online. Reflecting on her experience, she expressed difficulty in forgiving herself and overcoming feelings of disappointment.

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