By Gary Anderson

Lynsey Sharp will not be competing under the British flag at Rio 2016 should Scotland vote for independence ©Getty ImagesInternational Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has promised that the interests of Scottish athletes will be protected ahead of Rio 2016 should the country vote for independence next week.

Scotland is due to take part in an independence referendum on September 18 that could see it break its more than 300-year union with the United Kingdom.

Should that happen, then Scottish athletes could be ineligible to compete for Great Britain at future Olympic Games.

Scotland has set a target date of March 2016 for independence and with the Games in Rio de Janeiro set to get underway on August 5, that would leave around four months for a new Scottish National Olympic Committee to be set up.

Scottish athletes could compete under an independent flag in Brazil but would require IOC recognition which would not be gained until an independent Scotland is first ratified by the United Nations.

There is also the added complication of qualification procedures and deadlines in the build-up to Rio 2016 which could rule out Scottish athletes in the event of independence.

Last week, IOC vice-president and Scotsman Sir Craig Reedie said it would be "very, very difficult" to set-up a new National Olympic Committee in Scotland given the stated timeline for independence.

"It would be difficult to deliver in time because I simply don't know when an independent Scotland would be recognised by the IOC," added Reedie, who is also the President of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Scot Sir Chris Hoy is Britain's most successful Olympic athlete in history ©Getty ImagesScot Sir Chris Hoy is Britain's most successful Olympic athlete in history ©Getty Images

But Bach indicated today that every effort will be made to ensure Scottish athletes will be competing in Rio should the country vote for independence.

"We respect democratic decisions," the German told Reuters.

"We always do.

"But you can see from previous decisions we have been taking in similar cases that we are always safeguarding the interests of the athletes."

Scottish athletes secured 13 of Britain's 65 medals at London 2012 with Andy Murray, Katherine Grainger and Sir Chris Hoy claiming gold.

Track cyclist Sir Chris is the most successful British athlete in Olympic history, winning six gold medals and one silver across four Games from 2000 to 2012.

Previously, athletes from nations who have yet to have their independence officially ratified have competed under the Olympic Flag.

At Barcelona 1992, athletes from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia took part under the Olympic Flag, as did East Timor athletes at Sydney 2000 and those from South Sudan at London 2012.

Earlier this year, Indian athletes were forced to compete under the Olympic Flag at Sochi 2014 while the Indian Olympic Association was under a ban from the IOC.

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