A Russian court upheld the nine-year prison sentence handed to U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner for drug possession, rejecting her appeal. Griner, an eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted Aug. 4 after police found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s airport. The Moscow region court upheld the sentence on Tuesday. One day in pre-trial detention will be counted as 1.5 days in prison, so the basketball player will have to serve around eight years in prison, reports the Associated Press.
Griner took part in the court hearing via video call from a penal colony outside Moscow where she is imprisoned. Griner’s February arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine. Griner was returning to Russia, where she played during the U.S. league’s offseason. Griner admitted she had the canisters in her luggage but testified she inadvertently packed them in haste and had no criminal intent. Her defense team said she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain. The nine-year sentence was close to the maximum of 10 years, and Griner’s lawyers argued after the conviction that the punishment was excessive. They said in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.