A group of Belarusian athletes have rejected calls from other competitors in the nation for the country to be suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), claiming they should be allowed to compete under their own flag at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next year.
The IOC moved a step closer to sanctioning the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOCRB) for breaching the Olympic Charter last week when it began formal proceedings against the organisation following allegations it has politically discriminated against athletes.
The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF) has alleged "many athletes have been tortured, beaten and arrested" for speaking out and demonstrating against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko - who also heads the NOCRB - following his disputed re-election in August.
It has accused the NOCRB of "encouraging continuous violence and turning its blind eye to the ongoing multiple cases of discrimination and violence" amid the Government crackdown on protestors and wants it to be suspended by the IOC, which could lead to Belarusian athletes competing as neutrals at Tokyo 2020.
But a separate coalition of Belarus athletes have signed an address which claims the nation's flag should not be banned from next year's Games, despite the accusations against the NOCRB.
Signed by Olympic champions including Aleksandr Maseykov, Ekaterina Karsten and Anton Kushnir, the address criticises those such as the BSSF and the Belarus Swiss Association - which in October delivered a petition to the IOC urging the body to act - who have called for Belarus to be punished by the IOC.
"We do not want to change the state symbols, be denied the honour of competing under the flag of our country and not be able to step on a pedestal to the sound of the Belarusian national anthem," the group said.
"In order to preserve all this, we have to make a loud statement hoping to be heard.
"We call for an end to the attacks on Belarusian sport from the outside.
"Public statements on political matters by participants of some illegal, pseudo-sport organisations located abroad are destructive and discredit the sport and the Olympic Movement.
"Such small groups of persons have no right to represent interests, express opinions and speak on behalf of all Belarusian athletes both in Belarus and abroad.
"We consider it unacceptable to deliberately incite hostility and conflicts by providing information in various manipulative ways and by distorting facts.
"Such methods are actively exploited by such organisations and are aimed at dividing sportsmen into ‘us' and ‘them'.
"We consider it unacceptable and demand that the calls to express political views and to share a certain political opinion be stopped."
The NOCRB crisis will next be discussed by the IOC Executive Board during its next meeting, scheduled to run from December 7 to 11.