MOSCOW—Issuing an adamant rejection of any wrongdoing in the wake of a four-year ban from global sports, top Russian sporting officials denied Monday that steroids had enabled 8-year-gymnast Svetlana Larionova to hurl a balance beam through a concrete wall and escape a state-run athletics facility. “Anna just happens to be a particularly gifted young athlete—performance-enhancing supplements played no part in her snapping the necks of three guards and then aerial-cartwheeling over a 15-foot barbed-wire fence,” said national gymnastics team spokesperson Dasha Zechory, explaining that the steel-reinforced wall Larionova shattered to pieces was “probably laid on a shoddy foundation,” and that a lot of kids her age could lift a 600-pound balance beam if they felt a rush of adrenaline. “While her whereabouts are presently unknown, we trust she will resume her training as soon as she realizes the horrible mistake she has made in turning her back on Russian gymnastics. We urge anyone who encounters Anna to exercise extreme caution, stay very far out of her way, and contact authorities immediately.” At press time, Larionova’s trainer had issued a heartfelt plea for the girl to return and forgiven her for punching a hole through the middle of his chest.
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