House gym can be a house of horrors

Lawmakers who are trying to shed some pounds might want to take their workouts any place but the House gym. A mix of maladies and embarrassments has befallen several members and staffers who walked through the gym’s mysterious and unmarked doors over the years.

The latest victim is Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who underwent knee surgery last week after taking a tumble on the gym’s treadmill. After doctors repaired a torn patella tendon in his left knee, Ellison tweeted on Friday, “Thanks to all for words of encouragement after my knee injury. Bless you and thank you.”

Perhaps the real blessing should be done over the House gym. 

Undoubtedly one of the most famous (or infamous) users of the facility in the Rayburn House Office Building was former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). Right before he handed in his resignation papers following a Twitter scandal, the website published photos that appeared to show Weiner, clad only in a towel, flexing his muscles in a locker room at the gym. The site reported that Weiner took the pictures of himself “at the House Members Gym and sent them to at least one woman.”

While Weiner might have caught only further flak for the racy photos, a house staffer caught something a bit more serious after using the gym in 2009: a staph infection. The House Chief Administrative Officer confirmed to The Hill at the time, “As a precautionary measure and in accordance with the recommendations of the Office of the Attending Physician, the HSFC has thoroughly disinfected the House gym.”

Some might question whether a place that has played host to injuries, scandals and diseases is cursed. Yet former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) contends that the problem might not be the gym itself — it might be the lawmakers who use it. 

“It’s middle-aged guys trying to be young guys,” Davis told ITK with a laugh. And while Davis doesn’t believe any bad karma surrounds the equipment, the former congressman said a little TLC might help: “It’s certainly adequate, but it’s not gold-plated. It could probably use an upgrade, but I don’t think Congress is interested in investing right now while they’re cutting benefits.”

ITK’s advice to Congress: Maybe do your heavy lifting on the House floor and not in the gym.