TORONTO, Oct 24 (Reuters) World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Dick Pound has claimed former International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch tried to sweep doping under the carpet to protect IOC interests.+ ''Samaranch wasn't interested in the issue,'' Pound told Reuters in a telephone interview.
''There was no money available for research and Samaranch wasn't interested in using the Olympic leverage against the international federations to make them do their job.
''He was never willing to do that.'' Samaranch, who took over as IOC chief in 1980, is credited with turning the then lagging fortunes of the Olympic movement around and creating a hugely popular and commercially successful product with the Summer and Winter Olympics.
He also greatly enhanced the political clout of the IOC worldwide. The Spaniard's mandate ended in 2001 and was succeeded by Jacques Rogge, who has advocated a zero tolerance policy on drugs.
Pound said were it not for the 1998 Festina team cycling scandal at the Tour de France, where officials found a carload of performance-enhancing drugs and police raided team hotels to find more drugs, things would not have changed.
''I think we would have went on like that for a long if it hadn't been for the Festina fiasco in 1998,'' he said.
Doping has since become an even bigger problem in world sport, again seriously damaging the image of cycling during the Tour de France in 2006 and 2007.
Athletics has also taken a direct hit following the recent confession of triple Olympic champion Marion Jones of taking performance-enhancing drugs.
She now faces a prison sentence of up to six months after pleading guilty to two counts of providing false statements to federal investigators.
Pound said the Festina scandal essentially led to the creation of WADA as the credibility of the IOC and the international federations had been greatly undermined.
''I told him (Samaranch), we are now in a position where nobody believes the IOC any more, nobody believes the UCI (International Cycling Union) ''What we need is a completely independent agency,'' said Pound, who became WADA's first president.
Pound, who is stepping down at the end of this year, also ran for IOC president in 2001 but lost out to Rogge.
Samaranch was unavailable for comment.
REUTERS BJR RK2150