This season, the American sprinter went undefeated in two premier events -- the 100 and 200 meters -- but was not chosen as a finalist for his sport's athlete of the year award.
Gatlin, who was banned for four years after testing positive for testosterone in 2006, had been among the original 10 nominees for the honor, sparking much debate in the track-and-field world.
"I'm sad to say that a lot of people out there feel that, 'Once a doper, always a doper,'" he told the Associated Press earlier this week. "But that makes no sense. That means you don't believe your system is working."
The backlash may have influenced a vote by fellow athletes and international officials who whittled that list down to three on Friday.
Qatari high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim, marathoner Dennis Kipruto Kimetto of Kenya and pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie of France made the cut.