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Baylor alum says he's working with State Department to secure release of Brittney Griner from Russia

He's a former Baylor athlete, just like Griner, and said his connection to Baylor made him decide to get involved.

HOUSTON — Texas Congressman Colin Allred says he's working with the U.S. State Department to free WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner from detention in Russia.

He's a former Baylor athlete, just like Griner and said his connection to Baylor made him decide to get involved.

The Houston native has been held in Russia since February 17 after customs agents claimed she had drugs on her while flying into the country.

Allred told ESPN he's working with the White House to get access to Griner and check on her condition.

But he said quote, “The Russian criminal justice system is very different than ours, very opaque... We don't have a lot of insight into where she is in that process.”

RELATED: Booking photo released of WNBA star Brittney Griner's detainment in Russia

A booking photo of Griner was released earlier this week while she's detained in Russia. The photo was obtained by Russian State Television and CNN.

According to the Federal Customs Service of Russia, Griner had flown to Moscow from New York, and according to Russian officials, a dog indicated drugs may be in her carry-on luggage.

A Russian press release said that a professional basketball player had been detained for allegedly having vapes that contained hashish oil in her airport luggage and that an investigation was underway.

The press release doesn't mention Griner specifically. The New York Times identified the player as Griner, citing Russian news agency TASS. Her detainment was confirmed by KHOU 11.

The booking photo shows Brittney Griner holding up a piece of paper. It's not clear where she was when the photo was taken. 

Credit: Russia State Television
Booking photo - WNBA player Britney Griner detained in Russia

People and organizations in the U.S. have been calling for Griner's release. Her wife posted a statement on Instagram over the weekend asking for prayers and privacy.  A Change.org petition has been started to have the Houston native returned home safely.  As of Feb. 8, it has over 30,000 signatures. 

RELATED: Petition started for WNBA star, Houston native's safe return

Cherelle Griner posted another heartfelt message again on Monday.

"We love you babe! People say “stay busy.” Yet, there’s not a task in this world that could keep any of us from worrying about you. My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats everyday that goes by. I miss your voice. I miss your presence. You’re our person! There are no words to express this pain. I’m hurting, we’re hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family."

Griner has played in Russia for the last seven years in the winter, earning over $1 million per season — more than quadruple her WNBA salary. She last played for her Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg on Jan. 29 before the league took a two-week break in early February for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.

Griner's high school coach shared her thoughts with KHOU 11's Anayeli Ruiz.

Richard Stoll, Albert Thomas professor of political science at Rice University, weighed in on whether public demands for Griner’s release really make a difference. 

“Probably not, but they might as well try,” Stoll said.

Because the arrest happened in February, Stoll doesn't think it initially had anything to do with the current geopolitical climate.

“I think that all happened independent of foreign policy,” Stoll said. “Now, it’s tangled up because of what’s happening in the Ukraine.”

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