Former Olympic gymnast Peter Vidmar has resigned as the chef du mission of the US 2012 team after anger over comments he made about gay marriage.

In 2008, Mr Vidmar, a Mormon, joined the fight against California’s gay marriage law.

As well as joining two rallies and donating $2,000, the gold medal winner was quoted at the time as saying: “It’s good for our society to have a traditional definition of marriage.”

His comments resurfaced last week in an article on Outsports.com and then in the Chicago Tribune, leading fellow athletes to condemn him.

The figure skater Johnny Weir, who is gay, told Outsports.com: “I certainly wouldn’t want to be represented by someone who is anti gay marriage. It isn’t just about marriage; it is being allowed equal rights as Americans. The fact this man who is very publicly against something that may be represented on the American team is disgraceful.”

In a statement on Friday, Mr Vidmar, 49, said: “I have dedicated my life to the Olympic movement and the ideals of excellence, friendship and respect. I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States. I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the US Olympic family. I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take centre stage.”

Before resigning, he told reporters he had not tried to hide his remarks and added: “I fully respect the rights of everyone to have the relationships they want to have.”