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Brittney Griner recalls bloodstained mattress and other harsh living conditions during Russian detainment

Brittney Griner says she was subjected to inhumane conditions during her nearly 10-month-long detainment in Russia, which included her final stay at a Russian penal colony, where the WNBA star says she was forced to work on helping to produce military clothing. 

In her first sit down interview after being released in December 2022 in a prisoner exchange, Griner detailed her living conditions in an interview with ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” 

“The mattress had a huge bloodstain, and they give you these thin two sheets, so you’re basically laying on bars,” Griner said of her initial detainment at Correctional Colony No. 1, or IK-1 as it is more commonly referred to. 

“From the middle of my shin to my feet stuck through the bars, which in prison, you really don’t want to stick your leg and arm through bars because someone could go up and grab it, break it, twist it and that’s what was going through my mind.” 

Griner was arrested at a Russian airport in February 2022 after it was discovered that she had been traveling with cartridges containing cannabis oil. She had been traveling to Russia to play basketball in the offseason and credited the mistake as simply a “mental lapse.” 

Griner was swiftly taken into custody to await her fate. 

Brittney Griner warms up


During her detainment, Griner said her access to resources was limited. She was given a roll of toilet paper that was meant to last her a month. However, there were some times when even those needs were not being met. 

“There was like two, three months where we didn’t get anything.” 

She continued, “It was like 15 years ago that toothpaste was expired. We used to put it on the black mold to kill the mold on the walls.” 

After her trial, Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian labor camp, IK-2. 

Brittney Griner in court

While there, Griner worked to cut fabric for military uniforms. 

“It’s a work camp,” she recalled. “You go there to work. There’s no rest.” 

“So I’m picking up these big beams of fleece and cotton and silk. We put it on this machine, and you roll it out a hundred times, clamp it, cut it.” 

Griner was released in December 2022 as part of a prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout. She returned to the Mercury last season. She was an All-Star for the eighth time in her career.

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report. 

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