WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner speaks to her lawyers standing in a cage at a court room prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 26, 2022. A Russian court has on Tuesday, Oct. 23 started hearing American basketball star Brittney Griner's appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)

By The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — American basketball star Brittney Griner has been sent to a penal colony in Russia to serve her sentence for drug possession, her legal team said Wednesday.

A Russian court rejected an appeal of her nine-year sentence last month. The eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Her arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, and the politically charged case could lead to a high-stakes prisoner exchange between Washington and Moscow.

“Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “As we have said before, the U.S. Government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens.”

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