‘Celebrity’ Griner shouldn’t get special treatment – trainer
Brittney Griner is a basketball great but her status does not mean she should be treated differently under Russian law, according to former Russian women’s team coach Boris Sokolovsky.
Griner was jailed for nine years by Khimki City Court just outside Moscow on Thursday, after being caught with banned hashish oil vape cartridges in her luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport on February 17.
Griner was traveling to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason in her homeland – something she has done on a series of lucrative deals since 2015.
There has been outcry in the US over her case, with Griner officially being classified as “wrongfully detained” even though she pleaded guilty.
Russian officials have refuted claims of political interference in Griner’s trial, noting that she broke the law and should not be considered an exception simply because she is a foreigner.
Veteran former Russian women’s national basketball team coach Sokolovsky also believes that Griner’s status does not afford her special privileges.
“The basketball community is tight, and Brittney is a high-class player, she is a celebrity, so the case caused such a resonance both in the United States and here,” said Sokolovsky, 68, who guided Russia to fourth place at the 2012 Olympics.
“But we need to trust our justice system, which decided that her act falls under Russian law.
“The greatness of any athlete should not overshadow the law.
“As a colleague, I’m sincerely sorry that she got into such a situation, but it’s wrong to say that our state is not right just because she is a great basketball player,” added Sokolovsky in comments to TASS.
Part of Griner’s defense was that she had been prescribed the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes back in the US, to help deal with injuries.
However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has been among those to note that Russian law differs from many US states which take a different stance on drugs, and that Griner was on Russian territory.
Sokolovsky said that Russia does not have to follow suit from the US in terms of narcotics legalization.
“Yes, many drugs are legal in the US, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow their rules,” he said.
“In addition to the fact that foreign athletes bring a new level of skill to our championship, many vices also come with them.
Sokolovsky described himself as “a conservative person originally from the USSR” but said there were other ways for people to manage stress.
“Maybe [cannabis] a stress reliever for Brittney, but we have legal stress relievers, like liquor, for example,” he noted.
Whether or not Griner serves the duration of her sentence remains to be seen, with discussions underway between Moscow and Washington over a potential prisoner swap involving the basketball star.
Griner is a two-time Olympic champion with the US and an eight-time WNBA All-Star with the Phoenix Mercury.