Peter Vidmar steps down as chief

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Olympic gold-medal gymnast Peter Vidmar stepped down as chief of mission for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team Friday following a controversy over his opposition to gay marriage.

Vidmar said in a release that he's dedicated his life to the Olympic movement and its ideals, and he did not want distractions caused by his religious beliefs to take away from the U.S. team at the London Games.

"I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family," Vidmar said in a statement released by the U.S. Olympic Committee. "I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take center stage."

The USOC did not immediately name a replacement.

Vidmar, 49, won two gold medals at the 1984 Olympics, and is now the chairman of USA Gymnastics. He was chosen last week as chief of mission for the London Olympics, making him the liaison officer for the American team in its dealings with the International Olympic Committee and local organizers.

In a story on the Chicago Tribune's website Thursday, openly gay figure skater and two-time Olympian Johnny Weir called Vidmar's selection "disgraceful" because of Vidmar's opposition to gay marriage.

Vidmar, a Mormon, was a public supporter of Proposition 8, the voter-approved law passed in 2008 that restricted marriage in California to one man and one woman. The Mormon church believes all sexual relations outside of marriage are wrong, and defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Since the 1990s, the church has worked to prevent the passage of laws legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide and helped generate millions of dollars to fund Proposition 8.

Vidmar told the Tribune his personal beliefs would have no bearing on his role as chief, and that he would "respect the rights of all our athletes, regardless of their race, their religion or their sexual orientation."

"I believe Peter would have served our athletes well," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said Friday. "But given the nature of this issue, I certainly respect his decision to resign."