Brittney Griner Was Forced to Work Constantly in Russian Labor Camp: ‘There’s No Rest’

Prisoner in Russia: The Brittney Griner Interview (Credit: ABC News)

Brittney Griner felt so hopeless while jailed in Russia that she considered suicide.

The WNBA star sat down with Robin Roberts for a 20/20 primetime special that aired Wednesday, May 1, and recalled the details about her incarceration in Russia on drug charges in 2022.

“I wanted to take my life more than once in the first weeks,” Griner said. “I felt like leaving here so badly.”

The 33-year-old athlete told Roberts she didn’t go through with it because she feared her body wouldn’t be released to her family.

“I can’t put them through that,” she recalled telling herself. “I have to endure this.”

Related StoryBrittney Griner Endured ‘Hell’ in Russian Prison With ‘No Hot Water’

Griner was arrested at Moscow Airport on Feb. 17, 2022, after Russian officials found vape cartridges with hashish oil inside her luggage.

The U.S. government said the two-time Olympic gold medalist was “wrongfully detained” by Russian authorities and demanded her release.

Griner was convicted and sentenced to 9 years in a brutal prison camp. She appealed the sentence, but a Russian court rejected the appeal.

During her tearful ABC News interview, Griner described feeling “less than a human” while in Russian custody.

She said conditions inside the prison were demoralizing.

“The mattress had a huge blood stain on it… I had no soap, no toilet paper. That was the moment where I just felt less than a human,” Griner said.

She explained prisoners were given one roll of toilet paper each month. At times, she would use a shirt to clean herself after going to the bathroom, she shared in horrifying detail.

Griner also revealed prisoners in the labor camp must work constantly. Her assignment was to cut fabric for military uniforms.

“It’s a work camp. You go there to work, there’s no rest,” she said.

Griner traveled to Russia to play in the off-season for extra money, and said she had a doctor’s note for the drugs.

Fellow athletes, fans, and family members, including her wife Cherelle Griner, lobbied the White House to help bring her home.

After months of negotiations with the Biden administration, Russian authorities released Griner on Dec. 8, 2022, ending her ten-month ordeal.

Her release was part of a prisoner swap for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was in U.S. custody for selling arms to warring factions in conflicts around the world.

The Biden administration failed to win freedom for Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been jailed for five years in Russia following a conviction on espionage charges. Whelan spoke with CNN by phone in December 2022 and denied being a spy. The Biden administration has said he was also “wrongfully detained.”

Griner said once she got on the airplane to leave Russia, she looked for Whelan.

“When I walked on and I didn’t see him, I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I’m early. Maybe he’s next,’” she recalled. “And when they closed the door, I was like, ‘Are you seriously not gonna let this man come home right now?’”

She added, “No one should be left behind.”

Below is a portion of Prisoner in Russia: The Brittney Griner Interview

One thought on “Brittney Griner Was Forced to Work Constantly in Russian Labor Camp: ‘There’s No Rest’

  1. I think this is terrible. USA is my only home and place to be.
    Pleople need to stop traveling to foreign countries. Stay in the USA. Leave those countries alone! I think her story tells it all.

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