SCOTTISH athletes could end up competing against each other at the next Olympic Games if the country becomes independent.
The Olympians may have a choice of representing either Scotland or Team GB, as Northern Irish residents currently do with Ireland, athletics chief Liz Nicholl has said.
The chief executive of UK Sport, which helps train world-class athletes for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, said an independent Scotland would have implications for athletes based there.
At this year’s Olympics, some Northern Irish residents competed under the Irish flag while others opted to be part of Team GB.
Alex Salmond has said he hopes to field a separate Scottish team at the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero in 2016.
A “yes” vote in the 2014 referendum on independence could lead to stars having to chose one team or the other.
Nicholl said: “Should Scotland back independence and subsequently establish an independent Scottish Olympic and Paralympic team, this would have implications for Scottish athletes across Olympic and Paralympic sports who are members of our World Class Performance Programme.
“They may, for example, be given a choice as to who they decide to preresent at the Games, as athletes from Northern Ireland do.”
She added: “This is a situation which we will monitor closely in liaison with the Scottish Government.”
UK Sport said it would not change its approach to Scottish stars such as cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy in the run-up to the referendum.
He took his sixth gold medal at the Games in London
Last week Sir Craig Reedie, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said Scottish athletes would stay in Team GB for the 2016 games no matter what happens in the referendum.
He said because of the short time scale between the games and the outcome of the referendum the recognition process would take too long.
He said the present set up “works to the benefit of Scottish Athletes.”
The Scottish Government pointed to Montenegro’s speedy entry into the Olympics as a reason Scotland could compete in the next games.
The country gained IOC recognition and competed in the 2008 games after becoming independent of Serbia in 2006.
The Scottish Government hopes to field a team in time for the Rio games, and says the decision on who Scottish-resident athletes would compete for would be up to the IOC.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Eligibility for national teams in international sport is a matter for the relevant international sports governing bodies- in the case of the Olympics this would be the IOC.
“Under all constitutional circumstances sportscotland will ensure that high performance athletes continue to get the best possible training that is right for the individual, their circumstances and their sport.”