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WNBA star Brittney Griner’s Russian detention takes dark turn as Phoenix Mercury’s stay continues

WNBA star and Olympic gold medallist Brittney Griner has had her pre-trial detention in Russia extended by one month, her lawyer said.

Alexander Boykov said on Friday that he thinks the relatively short extension indicated that Griner’s case would go to trial soon.

The 31-year-old American athlete has been in custody for nearly three months.

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Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was detained at a Moscow airport in February.

Vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis were allegedly found in her luggage. She faces drug smuggling charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Griner appeared for the brief hearing at a court outside Moscow. She was handcuffed, wearing an orange hoodie and holding her face down.

She did not express “any complaints about the detention conditions”, Boykov said.

WNBA star Brittney Griner.
WNBA star and Olympic gold medallist Brittney Griner leaves court after a hearing. Credit: AP

The Biden administration says Griner is being wrongfully detained. The WNBA and US officials have worked toward her release but without visible progress.

“Today’s news on Brittney Griner was not unexpected, and the WNBA continues to work with the US government to get BG home safely and as soon as possible,” the basketball league said in a statement.

Russian officials have described Griner’s case as a criminal offence without making any political associations. But Moscow’s war in Ukraine has brought US-Russia relations to the lowest level since the Cold War.

The Russians may consider Griner someone who could figure in a prisoner exchange.

The State Department last week said it now regards Griner as wrongfully detained, a change in classification that suggests the US government will be more active in trying to secure her release.

Brittney Griner
US basketball star Brittney Griner has had her Russian detention extended until May 19. Credit: AP

Cambage accused of disgraceful slur

Last week Aussie basketball talent Liz Cambage shared a cryptic message to the Opals as long-time adversary Andrew Bogut shed new light on the WNBA star’s feud with Australian basketball.

Former national team captain Jenna O’Hea confirmed claims that Cambage told her Nigerian opponents to “go back to your third-world country” in a warm-up game before the Tokyo Olympics.

The WNBA All-Star was investigated and issued a formal reprimand – but not suspended or fined – before withdrawing from the event citing mental health concerns.

She has since declared she will never again play for the Opals.

Andrew Bogut believes Liz Cambage does not need to address the claims.
Andrew Bogut believes Liz Cambage does not need to address the claims. Credit: AAP

The specifics of Cambage’s on-court actions had remained a mystery until Sunday.

Speaking on the ABC’s Offsiders, retired Opals great O’Hea confirmed host Kelli Underwood’s claim that Cambage “turned to them (Nigerian players) and said ‘go back to your third-world country’,” and that they hadn’t spoken since.

“That is all one hundred per cent correct,” O’Hea said.

Cambage tweeted a short response from the US overnight without directly addressing the situation.

“The truth will always come to light, and it ain’t even dawn yet,” she wrote.

Bogut believes Cambage does not need to speak publicly on the issue.

“I’m sure it’s someone else’s fault as to why she said it, so no,” he told 2GB on Monday.

The NBA champion turned Sydney Kings co-owner is adamant the full story is yet to be told.

“You just got the PG version. There was much more than that. But look, I’m happy someone’s finally came out and said it,” Bogut said.

“It is beyond despicable what was said. I believe if it was anyone else we’d hear much more about it.

“There’s much more in there that you can’t say on radio. People can figure that out. There were some other words used that I would never repeat, that I’d never even say, to be honest with you.”

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