A prisoner swap could possibly occur between the United States and Russia, as WNBA and two-time U.S Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner lost her court appeal to her Russian prison sentence Tuesday.
The athlete, who has been detained since Feb. 17, is facing years nine years inside a Russian penal colony, remote from the general population, for bringing in vape canisters containing cannabis oils into the country.
Griner had traveled to Russia to play for a Russian professional basketball team during the WNBA offseason when she was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, according to AP News.
Griner said she brought the canisters for medicinal use with no criminal intent during her trial. Her defense team said they believed the sentencing was too long based on similar cases that have occurred in Russia.
While the Moscow Regional Court denied the appeal, Griner’s time in detention was counted as time served in prison. With one day in detention equaling one and a half days served in prison, Griner still faces eight years in her penal colony.
The U.S. offered in the past to trade Griner and Paul Whelan, an American arrested in Russia under espionage charges, for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
While there hasn’t been any response on the offer from Russia, some Russian officials have said that swaps can become more likely when appeals are no longer a factor.
Many U.S politicians, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, called the decision “another failure of justice.”
President Joe Biden told reporters that his administration is still in contact with Russia with bringing Griner back to the states and with her family, according to an AP News video.
As the original sentencing remains intact, Griner can’t help but worry about the future.
“Brittney’s biggest fear is that she is not exchanged and will have to serve the whole sentence in Russia,” said Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, in an email. “She had hopes for today, as each month, each day away from her family and friends matters to her.”