A judge sentenced U.S. WNBA player Brittney Griner to a nine-year prison term on Thursday for drug possession, Reuters reports. Many are hoping that the U.S. and Russia can swap prisoners and Griner can come home in exchange for an imprisoned Russian who was once one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers. Griner’s lawyers compared her to star athletes Usain Bolt and Michael Schumacher. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner, plays for the Phoenix Mercury. She was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on Feb. 17 when vape cartridges containing hashish oil were found in her luggage. Cannabis is illegal in Russia both medicinally and recreationally.
Griner pleaded guilty. Her legal team argued for a more-lenient sentence, saying she did not intend to bring cannabis into Russia. Griner’s arrest has thrown her into the center of geopolitical tension. Days after her arrest, on Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to invade Ukraine, increasing tension between the U.S. and Russia. There is increasing pressure on President Biden to intervene and bring Griner home. The U.S. wants to bring Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan home Russian officials say a deal has not been reached. They said that Griner broke the law and will be treated accordingly.