Stanislav Pozdnyakov is the favourite to be elected ROC President ©Getty Images

Stanislav Pozdnyakov and Alexander Popov have been confirmed as the two candidates vying to replace Alexander Zhukov as President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) at elections due to be held later this month.

Zhukov has confirmed he will not stand and will automatically lose his International Olympic Committee (IOC) membership as soon as he formally leaves his position on May 29.

He will instead focus upon his role as First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma in Russia.

Pozdnyakov, the current first vice-president of the ROC and who headed the neutral Olympic Athletes from Russia team at this year's Winter Olympic Games in Pyeonghang, is heavily favoured to be elected.

The 44-year-old is also a four-time Olympic and 10-time world champion in fencing.

He is also considered an ally of influential International Fencing Federation President, Alisher Usmanov, and the favoured choice of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Popov is considered one of the greatest sprint swimmers of all time and is the only man in history to defend both the 50 metre and 100m freestyle Olympic titles, having won them at Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996.

He is already an honorary IOC member after ending a total of 16 years on the Athletes' Commission in 2016.

The 46-year-old was criticised by many during the Rio 2016 Olympics after he cryptically warned International Association of Athletics Federations President Sebastian Coe that "what goes around, comes around", before adding: "Sleep well", after all but one Russian track and field athlete were barred from competing at the Games.

He was nominated by one national federation, the Shooting Union of Russia. 

Alexander Popov, right, pictured with soon-to-be-elected IOC President Thomas Bach in September 2013 ©Getty Images
Alexander Popov, right, pictured with soon-to-be-elected IOC President Thomas Bach in September 2013 ©Getty Images

Pozdnyakov, in contrast, received nominations from 35 different federations.

It is believed by some that Popov is primarily standing to create the feeling of a contested election.

Other candidates who were considered potentially more serious contenders ultimately decided not to stand.

These included ex-Russian Biathlon Federation President Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the National Basketball Association team Brooklyn Nets and a prominent oligarch who stood against Vladimir Putin in the Russian Presidential elections in 2012.

He is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Grigory Rodchenkov, the key witness in the Russian doping scandal.

European Shooting Confederation President Vladimir Lisin, Russian Presidential aide, Igor Levitin, and two-time Olympic ice hockey champion and former Sports Minister, Viacheslav Fetisov, were other mooted names who decided not to stand.

Zhukov, who has served as ROC President since 2010, is also likely to formally relinquish his position as chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Spain's Juan Antonio Samaranch is currently occupying this position on an interim basis but the IOC have said that no decision will be announced until Zhukov, who was also IOC Evaluation Commission chair in the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic race, formally leaves the ROC role.

The election is due to be held in Moscow on May 29.