The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), in a scathing statement, has called for the release of US basketball star Brittney Griner.

The association has urged the world to come together to help Griner, who was given a nine-year jail sentence for smuggling and possessing cannabis oil.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained by Russian authorities in February this year. The 32-year-old had gone to Russia to play during the US off-season, but was detained at a Moscow airport for carrying vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage.

The WNBA released the statement condemning Russian authorities after a local court rejected her appeal challenging the nine-year sentence. The state prosecutor labelled the sentence "fair." The court upheld the sentence despite Griner admitting that it was an "honest mistake."

"The courage and integrity Brittney Griner has displayed throughout her wrongful detainment should motivate every American to join our campaign to bring her home to her family without any further delay," read the statement from WNBA.

The association has urged other world sports bodies to come forward in support of Griner and said: "...while their legal system is very different from ours, there is no doubt that the original sentence she received was extreme, even for the Russian legal system. This appeal is further verification that BG is not just wrongfully detained-she is very clearly a hostage."

Griner has become somewhat of a political pawn for the US and Russia since the latter's invasion of Ukraine in February. Griner's agent, Lindsay Colas, has said that she is being held in Russia "simply because she is American," writes The Mirror.

Meanwhile, several reports have claimed that the two countries are discussing a possible prisoner swap. US media reports suggest that the Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout could be sent back to his home country in exchange for Griner.

Brittney Griner
US basketball star Brittney Griner is in a Russian jail. Reuters / EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA