The trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner continued in Moscow on Tuesday, with her defense team presenting additional evidence to support their position that the Olympic gold medalist brought cannabis oil to Russia accidentally, and that the cannabis oil was prescribed by a doctor and not used for recreational purposes in the United States.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Griner’s lawyers brought in Russian narcologist Mikhail Tetyushkin, who explained that “medical cannabis is a popular treatment specifically among athletes” in many countries outside of Russia, because of its therapeutic, anti-inflammatory properties.
According to CNN, Tetyushkin presented information on the use of medical cannabis by athletes, saying that “the frequent use of cannabinoids is incompatible with professional sports due to the effect of relaxation and inhibition of reaction times.” He also testified about worldwide use of medical cannabis, saying that there is no international standard “on the quantity of cannabinoids” in medical cannabis.
“It is clear that if the use is constant, it affects the nervous system, decreases the speed of reaction and thinking, decreases physical activity and the ability to perform highly coordinated movements, so professional athletes cannot use them all the time,” Tetyushkin reportedly told journalists after the hearing.
Griner’s lawyers presented additional negative drug tests on Tuesday. One of her lawyers,
Maria Blagovolina, told the court that an initial report from the prosecution’s expert witness was “inconsistent” and not based on scientific and legal standards. Blagovolina said the report did not determine the quantitative amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the cannabis oil found in Griner’s luggage, CNN reported. THC is the main psychoactive substance found in cannabis.
After Tuesday’s hearing, her lawyers continued to assert that the cannabis oil was brought to Russia accidentally and prescribed by a doctor in the United States.
“We are not arguing that Brittney took it here as a medicine. We are still saying that she involuntarily brought it here because she was in a rush,” Alexander Boykov, one of Griner’s lawyers, told journalists on Tuesday. “The Russian public has to know, and the Russian court in the first place has to know, that it was not used for recreational purposes in the United States. It was prescribed by a doctor.”
Boykov added that “given the number of extenuating circumstances” in Griner’s case, they expect “a pretty lenient verdict.”
“We have a lot of mitigating factors. So we do hope that the court will take it into consideration. And the courts in Russia, in fact, have very broad discretion with regard to the sentence,” Blagovolina, a lawyer for Griner, said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry argued last week that Griner’s arrest and detention is warranted. The ministry has criticized U.S. officials for saying Griner has been “wrongfully detained.”
“If a U.S. citizen was taken in connection with the fact that she was smuggling drugs, and she does not deny this, then this should be commensurate with our Russian local laws and not with those adopted in San Francisco, New York and Washington,” Maria Zakharova, the ministry’s spokesperson, said in a statement. “If drugs are legalized in the United States, in a number of states, and this is done for a long time… this does not mean that all other countries are following the same path.”
During a break in Tuesday’s hearing, ABC News briefly interviewed Griner. “Good luck on the bar exam,” Griner said in a message to her wife, Cherelle, who recently graduated from law school.
Griner arrived in court with two photos of her wife, friends and teammates. When asked if she had any complaints, she replied: “No, no complaints. Just waiting patiently.”
Tuesday’s hearing, which lasted about one hour, is the fifth so far in Griner’s ongoing criminal trial in Russia. The case was adjourned until Wednesday afternoon, where the WNBA star is expected to testify and be cross-examined by prosecutors.
According to her lawyers, the trial is expected to end in early August.