Britain's Mo Farah is on the list after retaining the 10,000m. IAAF members and fans via social media decide the award.
Gatlin has twice served a doping ban and athletics' governing body changed its rules on who could be nominated in 2015 so that anyone sanctioned for a serious doping offence could no longer be put forward.
Gatlin was jeered by the crowd inside London Stadium as he was presented with his medal during the summer.
Lord Coe, president of athletics' governing body the IAAF, admitted he was not "eulogistic" over the American's victory.
Gatlin was also omitted from the athlete of the year list in 2004 despite winning Olympic gold in Athens, although he was nominated for performance of the year.
He was one of the nominees in 2005 after winning that year's world title, 12 months before he accepted a second doping ban.
South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk is one of Farah's rivals for the title after he retained his world 400m title in London.
Caster Semenya of South Africa heads the women nominees after winning the 800m title in imperious style on the closing night of the World Championships.
Australia's Sally Pearson is also a notable nominee after claiming gold in the women's 100m hurdles in 12.60 seconds.
Voting closes on 16 October and the winners will be announced at the IAAF Athletics Awards in Monaco on 24 November.
The nominees for 2017 World Athlete of the Year
Men: Mutaz Essa Barshim (Qat); Pawel Fajdek (Pol); Mo Farah (GB); Sam Kendricks (US); Elijah Manangoi (Ken); Luvo Manyonga (SA); Omar McLeod (Jam); Christian Taylor (US); Wayde van Niekerk (SA); Johannes Vetter (Ger)