Justin Gatlin can relate to Maria Sharapova. Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic and 2005 world champion in the 100-meter dash, was suspended from competition in 2006 after a positive doping test. He ultimately sat out four years (and tried out for the NFL) before returning to the track. Gatlin was also banned in 2001 for a year while in college at Tennessee (he claimed this was due to an attention-deficit-disorder drug).

Sharapova was suspended in March 2016 after a failed drug test. She sat out a bit over a year before returning and  only appeared in one Grand Slam event in 2017.

Gatlin, who won bronze (2012) and silver (2016) at the Olympics and gold at this year's world championships, can give her perspective.

"Being away from my sport for over half a decade, man, can you imagine not collecting a check for four years, what would you do?" Gatlin says." It was actually more of a survival of the fittest for me, downgrading, moving in with family members, but always having the hope, always have that drive to be able to come back to the top where I was.

"If I had any advice for her, it would actually be, always believe in who you are. If you went out there with the intention of being the best athlete you can and being the clean athlete you are, then be that. Don't worry about the naysayers, don't worry about the haters, don't worry about the critics. Actually, turn that around and use that for power to be able to drive you and be a better person because regardless of the situation, people are not gonna like you, people didn't like you before the situation happened, so to give them fuel just not to like you now, that's all it really is. Just remember who you are, have that moral compass, go out there, win the next grand slam, be the person you can be and keep on influencing others to be better."

After winning gold at the worlds in London two months ago, Gatlin heard showers of boos from the crowd. However, he feels that had more to do with his dethroning of Usain Bolt -- in the legend's final career race -- than his doping past.

"In the stadium, it was just rocking," Gatlin says. "It was like 'BOOOO!' But out in the streets, I had families coming up to me, kids, people giving me handshakes, people chasing me in the street just to get an autograph or take a picture, so I don't think it was more or less for me. It was more or less for me and Usain made a storyline. It wasn't just a winner, a loser. Some people viewed it as a white hat, a black hat. Good, evil. Maybe it was over-exaggerated, but it was a great storyline. I'm glad to be a part of it."

Gatlin says the two are close off the track and Bolt's determination and success "inspired" him to be the "strongest person I can be on and off the track."

He spoke to ThePostGame in New York City last week while promoting the Justin Gatlin Foundation. Gatlin launched his foundation with a youth sprint clinic in Staten Island on Sept. 23.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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