US Olympic & Paralympic Committee supports efforts to get WNBA star Brittney Griner released from Russia

WASHINGTON — Over the past two months, the sports world has been keenly aware that the U.S. basketball community, led by the WNBA, has been working behind the scenes to try to secure the release of Brittney Griner after she was detained in Russia on an allegation of carrying cannabis oil in her luggage. 

But the WNBA, NBA and USA Basketball have had another ally in their efforts on Griner’s behalf: the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

CEO Sarah Hirshland said in an interview Monday that the USOPC has offered its support to those organizations trying to assist Griner, who won Olympic gold medals as a member of the U.S. women’s basketball team in 2016 in Rio and 2021 in Tokyo.  

“The resources between us, between USA Basketball, the NBA as a league, the WNBA — all of us have leaned on every friendship and resource we have from State Department to the people that we all work with,” Hirshland said. “In many cases, it’s actually a lot of the same folks. So there’s a lot of redundancy among all of us in sort of leaning on the resources you would naturally say help.

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Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia.

“I don’t know that I see a place where we look at it and say we can do more,” she continued, “unless the circumstances change and we feel like there is. If we felt like there was something we could do to be helpful, we would, in a heartbeat.”

Hirshland also said that the USOPC has had conversations with the International Olympic Committee about Griner, although she said she has not spoken directly with IOC President Thomas Bach. 

"The IOC has an acute focus on her and her health and safety as well,” Hirshland said. “I would say they’re concerned, they’re always concerned about athletes and wanting to understand the circumstances and wanting to have as much information and facts as they can have and wanting to know if they can be helpful.” 

Asked if the USOPC needs to get more publicly involved in Griner’s case, Hirshland said she hoped not.

“Not because we don’t want to be involved but because that would mean there’s something really terrible happening,” she said. “So I would say I hope not.”