WNBA star Brittney Griner to testify in drug smuggling trial in Russia

WNBA star Brittney Griner will testify in Russian court on Wednesday at her drug smuggling trial, during which prosecutors are expected to cross-examine her about possession of small amounts of hashish oil that’s kept her in jail for six months.

Griner has been on trial for a number of days and faces as many as 10 years in prison if she’s convicted on the drug charges. She pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this month, but Russia’s court system still puts someone on trial even if they plead guilty to the offenses.

Griner’s appearance on the stand Wednesday comes after medical witnesses testified in her behalf on Tuesday that professional athletes use cannabis to treat sports injuries and that Griner had been prescribed hashish oil by a doctor for treatment of “severe chronic pain.”

The 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury star and Olympic gold medalist had vape cartridges with less than a gram of hashish oil when she arrived and was taken into custody at the Moscow airport on Feb. 17.

Griner said that she packed the cartridges by accident. Possession of cannabis products is considered a serious crime in Russia.

Earlier this month, several Russian citizens also testified in support of Griner — including Maxim Ryabkov, director of a Russian basketball club in the city of Yekaterinburg where Griner plays during the WNBA off-season, and team doctor Anatoly Galabin.

Galabin said that Griner never tested positive for illegal substances while she was a member of the team.

If convicted, the women’s basketball star will have an opportunity to appeal — but her family and supporters have been urging the United States and President Joe Biden to get her released and returned home.

Griner decided to plead guilty to the charges this month in hopes that it would bring leniency in her punishment. She has also been mentioned as part of a possible prisoner swap.

Several weeks ago, the U.S. State Department changed Griner’s official status as “wrongfully detained” – a move that allows the federal government to seek more aggressive options in getting Americans released abroad.

Griner’s trial is expected to last until early August.

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