Brittney Griner Reflects on Struggle Of Russian Imprisonment: 'I Wanted to Take My Life More Than Once in the First Weeks'

The WNBA superstar returned to the U.S. in December 2022 in a prisoner exchange with Russia.

Brittney Griner in basketball uniform on court, focused, tattoos visible
Paras Griffin / Getty Images
Brittney Griner in basketball uniform on court, focused, tattoos visible

Brittney Griner’s time in a Russian prison took a severe toll on her mental health.

In a new interview with ABC News, the 33-year-old WNBA star told Robin Roberts that she considered dying by suicide during the 10 months she was incarcerated, some of which was spent in a penal colony outside of Moscow.

"I wanted to take my life more than once in the first weeks," Griner told Roberts, per TMZ. "I felt like leaving here so badly."

Brittney Griner was emotional recounting her detainment in Russia.

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She chose not to go that route because she was afraid that her family wouldn’t be able to retrieve her body. "I can't put them through that," she added. "I have to endure this."

Griner also described her living conditions, revealing that her mattress had a blood stain on it, and there was limited access to basic necessities like toilet paper and soap. She was even forced to write a letter to Vladimir Putin asking for mercy.

"I didn't want to do it," she said, adding, "but at the same time, I want to come home."

In February 2022, Griner was imprisoned after Russian authorities discovered vape cartridges in her luggage at the Moscow airport. She was sentenced to nine years in prison in August 2022. That December, the U.S. traded Griner for the imprisoned convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Since returning, Griner has returned to the WNBA and now, once again, plays for the Phoenix Mercury.

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