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American WNBA star Brittney Griner detained in Russia on drug charge.

Brittney Griner is seen on the basketball wearing a purple Phoenix Suns jersey.
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Brittney Griner No. 42 of the Phoenix Mercury is seen during the game against the Indiana Fever at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Sept. 6, 2021 in Indianapolis.

Michael Hickey / Getty Images

Friends and family of WNBA star Brittney Griner are calling for the basketball star’s release after she was detained in Russia on a drug charge.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist, 31, is in Russian custody after customs officials said they found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow in February.

In a statement Saturday, the Russian Customs Service said the cartridges were identified as containing oil derived from cannabis. Possession of the drug derivative could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The customs service identified the person arrested as a player for the U.S. women’s team and did not specify the date of her arrest. Russian media reported the player was Griner, and her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, did not dispute those reports to The Associated Press.

“As a U.S. citizen was passing through the green channel at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arriving from New York, a working dog from the Sheremetyevo Customs canine department detected the possible presence of narcotic substances in the accompanying luggage,” the statement said, reports CNN.

“The customs inspection of the hand luggage being carried by the U.S. citizen confirmed the presence of vapes with specifically smelling liquid, and an expert determined that the liquid was cannabis oil (hash oil), which is a narcotic substance.”

Griner is a seven-time all-star player with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. She spends her off-season in Russia, playing for the team UMMC Ekaterinburg, reports NBC News.

According to the Texas Tribune, Griner has played for the Russian team since at least 2014.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, posted an image of her and her wife to Instagram Saturday, thanking supporters and asking for privacy as the family navigates returning Brittney Griner home.

“Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated. I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life,” Cherelle Griner wrote.

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A post shared by 𝐂𝐇𝐄𝐑𝐄𝐋𝐋𝐄 𝐓. 𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐍𝐄𝐑 (@cherelletgriner)

She shared another photo Monday morning, which appears to show some of the couple’s family and friends gathered together for a group photo.

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A post shared by 𝐂𝐇𝐄𝐑𝐄𝐋𝐋𝐄 𝐓. 𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐍𝐄𝐑 (@cherelletgriner)

“I miss your voice. I miss your presence. You’re our person! There are no words to express this pain,” she wrote.

“I’m hurting, we’re hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family.

Kagawa Colas told AP Saturday that “We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA.”

“As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern.”

Russian Customs said it had filed a drug charge again Griner because of “large-scale transportation of drugs.” The charge can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States,” the league said in a statement.

“We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home,” the Phoenix Mercury tweeted Saturday.

The WNBA Player’s union also shared a statement, saying they “will continue to closely monitor and look forward to her return to the U.S.”

More than a dozen WNBA players were playing in Russia and Ukraine this winter, including league MVP Jonquel Jones, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley of the champion Chicago Sky. The WNBA confirmed Saturday that all players besides Griner had left both countries.

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens considering travelling to Russia. It has advised all U.S. citizens to leave the country immediately as the war between Russia and Ukraine intensifies.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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