US basketball star Brittney Griner standing trial in Russia on drug charges, had permission from a US doctor to use medicinal cannabis, her lawyers said in court on Friday.
Griner was detained at a Moscow airport in February, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, and charged with drug smuggling for possessing vape cartridges with cannabis oil.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist pleaded guilty and faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison.
Sitting in the defendant’s metal cage, Griner held up a printed photograph of fellow WNBA players wearing jerseys with her number, 42, during a game in Chicago earlier this month.
The six-foot-nine (2.06 metres) tall star had to lower her head to get into the cage. She wore a Nirvana T-shirt and smiled as she held on to the metal bars.
The defence team said in court that she had “chronic pains” from sports injuries and received a permission slip from a US doctor this year to use cannabis for medicinal reasons to relieve the pain.
“She is tired,” her lawyer, Alexander Boykov, told reporters after the hearing.
The defence team also provided documents to prove her achievements in basketball and contribution to charities.
Griner was detained while returning to play basketball for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a team in the Russian Premier League.
A day earlier, her Russian team praised her contribution to basketball in the country.
The captain of the UMMC Ekaterinburg team she played for, Yevgenia Belyakova said the team “misses” her.
Griner’s plight has been linked to the freeze of relations between Moscow and Washington since President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden has spoken to the star’s family, saying he will make it a “priority” to bring her home.