Brittney Griner Tearfully Recalls Horrible Conditions in Russian Prison: ‘I Had No Soap, No Toilet Paper’

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

Brittney Griner is sharing details in her first TV interview, about the horrifying conditions she endured while incarcerated in Russia.

The WNBA star sits down with Robin Roberts for a 20/20 primetime special airing May 1 on ABC.

In a preview clip from the special titled Prisoner in Russia: The Brittney Griner Interview, the basketball star breaks down in tears while recalling being treated like “less than a human” in a penal colony after her conviction on drug-related charges in 2022.

“I was just so scared for everything,” Griner tells Roberts.

Related StoryBrittney Griner Freed From Russia After Prisoner Swap

The two-time Olympic gold medalist describes the deplorable conditions in prison, and says she found a large knife on a table, suggesting she might have to fight for her life.

Griner, 33, adds that her cell was filthy.

“The mattress had this 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 recalls.

She tells Roberts she considered taking her life during the 10-month ordeal. “There were times when I didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” she continues.

[Watch the video below]

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

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

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

The U.S. government said Griner was “wrongfully detained” by Russian authorities and demanded her release. Activists said she was being used as a political pawn by Russia as it faced global condemnation for its invasion of Ukraine.

After months of negotiations with the Biden administration, Russian authorities released Griner on Dec. 8, 2022.

In a controversial deal, the administration swapped Griner for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who served 11 years of a 25-year sentence in the U.S. for selling arms to warring factions in conflicts around the world.

The administration failed to win freedom for Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been jailed for more than four years in Russia following a conviction on espionage charges. Whelan spoke with CNN by phone in 2022 and denied being a spy.

Griner sat down with Roberts to promote her upcoming memoir Coming Home. She also has a documentary in the works with ESPN Films and a scripted series with ABC Signature in development.

The 20/20 special is executive produced by Janice Johnston and Jonathan Blakely. Senior producers are Eboni Griffin, Joseph Diaz and Katie Conway.

Prisoner in Russia: The Brittney Griner Interview airs Wednesday, May 1, at 10:01 p.m. EDT/9:01 p.m. CDT, and streams the next day on Hulu.

A first look airs on Good Morning America May 1 between 7:00-9:00 a.m. EDT.

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