(Reuters) – American basketball star Brittney Griner, who was freed from a Russian penal colony in a high-profile prisoner exchange last year, will share her “harrowing experience” in a memoir to be released next year, publisher Alfred A. Knopf said on Tuesday.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) All-Star, was arrested in February 2022 at an airport outside Moscow for carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
She was subsequently convicted of drug smuggling and later transferred to one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies, where former inmates have described torture, harsh beatings and slave labor conditions.
Griner was released last December in a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, a deal that was arranged after months of talks during a time of high tension between the two countries after Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
“That day (in February) was the beginning of an unfathomable period in my life which only now am I ready to share,” Griner said in a news release.
The memoir will also address the issue of pay inequity for women athletes in the United States, which led Griner to play basketball in Russia during the WNBA off-season.
“The primary reason I traveled back to Russia for work that day was because I wanted to make my wife, family, and teammates proud. After an incredibly challenging 10 months in detainment, I am grateful to have been rescued and to be home,” she said.
“Readers will hear my story and understand why I’m so thankful for the outpouring of support from people across the world.”
Griner said she hopes the memoir, which will have a co-writer, can help raise awareness surrounding other Americans wrongfully detained abroad.
Griner signed a one-year contract in February to resume playing for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, who are schedule to open their 2023 season on May 19 in Los Angeles against the Sparks.
At the Mercury home opener on May 21, the team plans to honor her return ahead of the game against the Chicago Sky.
The 32-year-old Griner last played for the Mercury in the 2021 WNBA season, when she had one of the best years of her career, averaging 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists over 30 games.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Bill Berkrot)