"The Mattress Had A Huge Blood Stain," And 11 Other Shocking Details Revealed In Brittney Griner's Newest Interview About Her Time In A Russian Prison

"The Mattress Had A Huge Blood Stain," And 11 Other Shocking Details Revealed In Brittney Griner's Newest Interview About Her Time In A Russian Prison

Two years ago, WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested and detained in a Russian prison after airport authorities found cannabis cartridges in her luggage.

Basketball player in white jersey holding ball while defending against player in dark jersey

Griner said she had a pain prescription for cannabis due to years of sports injuries that left her constantly sore.

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Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges and was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.

Person in a glass box in court, text on screen indicating location as "Zal 305" and "VKK-1 Novoe Grishino."
Kirill Kudryavtsev / Getty Images

Thankfully, after nine months, the Biden administration negotiated Griner's release from Russia through a highly controversial prisoner swap agreement.

Individual in handcuffs escorted by two officers, one female on the left and one male on the right
Kirill Kudryavtsev / Getty Images

Recently, Griner gave an exclusive interview to ABC News 20/20 detailing her traumatic experience as an American prisoner in Russia.

Robin Roberts interviewing Brittney Griner

Here are the 12 most shocking revelations we learned:

1.Russia's invasion of Ukraine occurred one week into Griner's detainment.

Closeup of Brittney Griner

"When I found out that the invasion happened, I literally thought I was never coming home," Griner said.


2.Griner said she was brought to a Russian police station and put in a seven-by-seven cell that had one bed and a hole in the ground for a toilet.

A prison cell

"I had a couple of shirts, a couple pairs of sweats, and the shoes on my feet. One of the shirts, I ripped it up and used one to clean myself, and used one as toilet paper...that was the moment that I just felt the dirtiest and, like, less than a human," Griner said.

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3.Griner was later transferred to IK-1, a Russian prison, and put into a group cell, where the first thing she said she saw was a large knife left behind by guards.

Barbed wire tops a security fence against a cloudy sky, suggesting a secure or restricted area

4.She recalls only being given one roll of toilet paper to last a month, and her toothpaste expired 15 years prior."

"We used to put the [toothpaste] on the black mold to kill the mold on the walls," Griner said.

5.Griner described being left outside for hours by guards during snowy blizzards.

Two people walking on a snow-covered path among trees

"Those days were the toughest because it's like, 'Yo, come get us,' we're yelling, we're screaming, we're rattling the bars, like get us in."

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6.After her sentencing, Griner was sent to an IK-2 penal colony, described as "one of the worst prisons in Russia," where her job was to cut fabric for Russian military uniforms.

Close-up of several individuals in camouflage military uniforms standing in a row, focusing on their midsection

"It's a work camp. You go there to work; there's no rest," Griner said. "There were about 50–60 women in my room, one bathroom, three toilets, no hot water."

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7.Griner befriended her cellmate, who translated everything for her.

Closeup of Brittney Griner

"I wouldn't have made it without Alana," Griner said.


8.While in IK-2, Griner said she cut her hair because it was freezing in the Russian cold, causing her to get sick.

Closeup of Brittney Griner's braids

"My dreads started to freeze. They would just stay wet and cold, and I was getting sick. You got to do what you got to do to survive."

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9.After 287 days of detainment, Griner was told she was heading home. Before she left, Griner had to write a letter to Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, to give thanks and ask for forgiveness.

Person writing a note on paper at a wooden desk, focus on the hand with pen

"I didn't want to do it, but at the same time, I want to come home," Griner said.

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10.Griner said she was forced to take staged prison photos to show that the Russian prison system had "reformed" her.

Closeup of Brittney Griner

"They wanted it to look like I was doing what I needed to do, that their system worked," Griner said.


11.After being told she was going home, Griner said she was put into a van that dropped her off at a men's prison, where she was stripped and searched.

"When I get to this prison, I'm getting processed back in... I get checked into my cell, and I'm there for a couple of days." Griner described a note being slipped to her that read: "Be ready to leave."

12.During the US/Russia prisoner swap, Griner said she shook hands with "The Merchant of Death," Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, who had been a prisoner in the US for 25 years.

Closeup of Viktor Bout

"It felt like I was touching death... He actually spoke to me first and said, 'Congrats on going home,' and he wished me well, and I said the same to him, too," Griner said.


Since her homecoming, Griner has returned to the WNBA and is currently playing for the Phoenix Mercury.

Closeup of Brittney Griner on the court

You can watch Brittney Griner’s full 20/20 interview on Hulu here.