Brittney Griner Talks ‘Mental Lapse’ That Led to Russian Imprisonment: ‘It’s My Fault’

Brittney Griner opened up about the “absent-minded” mistake that left her imprisoned in a Russian work camp and the inhumane conditions she faced there in a preview of the WNBA star’s 20/20 interview.

“Prisoner in Russia” is set to air tonight on ABC, and in a clip first shown on Good Morning America Wednesday, Griner opens up about the moment she realized she accidentally packed cannabis oil in her luggage en route to play basketball in Russia.

“In the midst of them going through my bags, there’s two cartridges, and I’m just like, ‘Oh my god, how did I make this mistake?’” Griner told Robin Roberts. “How was I this absent-minded and made this huge mistake? I could just visualize everything I worked so hard for, just crumbling and going away.”

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During her imprisonment and subsequent release in a prisoner exchange, Griner has faced criticism for creating her own ordeal by forgetting to unpack the cannabis oil in the first place.

“Have you ever forgot your keys in your car and left your car running? ‘Where’s my glasses?’ They’re on top of your head. ‘Where’s my phone?’ Oh, it’s in my pocket. It’s just so easy to have a mental lapse,” Griner says to her critics in the interview. “Granted, my mental lapse was on more of a grand scale, but it doesn’t take away from how that could happen.”

A tearful Griner did acknowledge her role in the situation, however. “At the end of the day, it’s my fault, and I let everybody down,” she said.

Griner also discussed her time at a Russian work camp, an experience that resulted in her cutting the dreads she’d long grown, dating back to when she was a college basketball star nearly a decade earlier.

“Honestly, it just had to happen,” Griner said of the decision. “We had spiders above my bed making nests. My dreads started to freeze. They’d just stay wet and cold and I was getting sick. You’ve gotta do what you gotta do to survive.”


The prison camp itself was “really cold,” and Griner spent the majority of her time cutting fabric for military uniforms. “It’s a work camp: You got there to work,” she said. “There’s no rest.”

Griner previously revealed plans to publish a memoir, titled Coming Home and due out May 7, about that “unfathomable period” of her life. The book will also be the focal point of both an upcoming documentary and scripted television series.